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West weighs attack on Syria that could prompt confrontation with Russia

West weighs attack on Syria that could prompt confrontation with Russia
From CBC - April 12, 2018

British ministersplanto gather Thursday to discuss whether to join theUnited States and France in a possible military attack on Syriathat threatens to bring Western and Russian forces into directconfrontation.

Prime Minister Theresa May recalled the ministers from theirEaster holiday for a special cabinet meeting on how to respondto what she has cast as a barbaric poison gas attack by Syriangovernment forces on civilians in the formerly rebel-held townof Douma, just east of the capital Damascus.

French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile,said his government has proof that the Syrian government launched chlorine gas attacks.Speaking on TF1 television,Macron said, "We have proof that chemical weapons were used, at least chlorine" in recent days, by Syrian President al-Bashar Assad's government.

He did not say whether France wasplanning military action.

There were also signsof a global effort to head off adangerous conflict that could pit Russia against the West. The Kremlinsaid a crisis communications link with the United States,created to avoid an accidental clash over Syria, was in use.

"The situation in Syria is horrific. The use of chemical weaponsis something the world has to prevent," Brexit minister DavidDavis said on Thursday morning."But also, it's a very, very delicate circumstance, and we havegot to make this judgment on a very careful, very deliberate, very well-thought-through basis."

Missiles 'will be coming'

Russia, the Syrian government's most important ally in itsseven-year-old war with rebels, said it had deployed military police in Douma on Thursday after the town was taken over bygovernment forces.

"They are the guarantors of law and order in the town," RIAnews agency quoted Russia's Defence Ministry as saying.

U.S. President Donald Trump warned Russia on Wednesday thatmissiles "will be coming" in response to the April 7 gas attack,alleged to have killed dozens of people, and lambasted Moscowfor standing by Assad.

Syria's military has repositioned some air assets to avoidfallout from possible missile strikes, U.S. officials told Reuters on Wednesday.

Syria's attempt to shelter aircraft, perhaps by locatingthem alongside Russian military hardware that Washington might be reluctant to hit, could limit damage that the United Statesand its allies might be able to inflict on Assad's military.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based warmonitor, also said pro-Syrian government forces were emptyingmain airports and military airbases.

World stocks edged down as anxious investors stayed wary ofrisky assets.

Mattiscautious

U.S. Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis, striking a cautious toneafter Trump's threat of missile strikes, said on Wednesday theUnited States was assessing intelligence about the suspectedtoxic gas attack.

Asked if he had seen enough evidence to blame the Syrianpresident, Mattis said: "We are still working on this."

Israel-Iran tensions

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