Senior Official: Russia Knew About Chemical Attack In Advance


Turkey described the US missile attack on an air base as a "cosmetic intervention" unless it removes President Bashar Assad from power, while the Syrian leader's strong ally Iran called Saturday for the formation of an global fact-finding committee to investigate the chemical weapons attack in a northern Syrian town that killed scores of people and triggered the American attack.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seemed to take a more patient stance in regard to Mr Assad, saying on Saturday that Washington's first priority is the defeat of Islamic State. "There's not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime", she told the "State of the Union" program. "Other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions. Why are we supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population?"

"Well, first of all, he might want to express a little curiosity as to why - Vladimir Putin assured America and the world that all of the chemical weapon stocks had been removed some years ago", McCain said.

Trump has frequently urged improved relations with Russian Federation, strained under Obama over Syria, Ukraine and other issues, was hosting Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Thursday night when the attack occurred. He says that once the militant group is eliminated, the US can turn to stabilizing Syria.

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An ABC News/Washington Post poll released Monday finds 51 percent of Americans support the airstrikes last week, which the president ordered in retaliation for a chemical attack that killed civilians in northern Syria. Johnson said the situation in Syria has changed "fundamentally" following the chemical attack and the US response. Besides, under a Russian-US deal after the east Ghouta sarin gas incident in 2013, Damascus joined the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and agreed to destroy its stockpile under Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) oversight.

"We should point out to Vladimir Putin that this kind of activity - aligning himself with a war criminal and a consummately violator of human rights like Bashar Assad, over time, is not going to be of benefit to Russian Federation and the world", he said. "The president will make whatever decision he thinks is in the best interests of the American people".

Mr Putin and Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani warned the USA a "red line" had been crossed.

USA -backed rebels groups have long pleaded for more US intervention and complained that Washington has only fought the Islamic State group.

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The strike was not aimed at toppling Mr. Assad or ousting his minority Alawite regime, at least, not yet. But he said Trump now needed to work with Congress to set a future course.

The defence secretary said Syria needed a government in which Mr Assad played no part.

Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, agreed. That trip, too, is fraught with tension over Syria: Tillerson has blamed Russia, Assad's strongest ally, of either complicity or incompetence for allowing Assad to possess and use chemical weapons.

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