Saturday, 21 April, 2018

United States suggests Russia, Syria may tamper with Douma evidence, Moscow denies

It is the second time in just a few weeks that OPCW investigators have been deployed to a site of a suspected toxic arms attack OPCW says will not disclose details of investigative mission to Syria for security reasons
Patty Aguilar | 17 April, 2018, 06:30

The then United States president Barack Obama threatened to retaliate with military action against the Syrian government before Russian Federation stepped in to broker a deal under which Mr Al Assad promised to destroy his chemical weapon stockpiles.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) released a statement Saturday saying the organization is in Syria to conduct an investigation into the allegation that the April 7 attack in Duma was a chemical one and will remain there until the task is complete.

It said no deaths from mechanical injuries were visible and all symptoms were characteristic of a chemical weapons attack, particularly choking agents and organophosphorus agents or hydrocyanic acid. President Bashar Al Assad's government and its ally Russian Federation deny there had been a chemical attack, and western powers claim they already had proof.

Russian Federation has "strongly condemned" the Western missile strikes against Syria, slamming them as "a gross violation of the fundamental principles of global law, [and] an unjustified infringement of the sovereignty of the country".

Syria and its ally Russian Federation deny any chemical attack took place - with Russian Federation calling it a "staged thing".

The attack on 7 April prompted military strikes on Syrian government targets by the US, UK, and France a week later.

Russia's foreign minister told the BBC that "Russia has not tampered with the site".

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"Units from the internal security forces entered Douma in Eastern Ghouta", state television reported.

There is also the risk that evidence may have been removed from the site, which lies in an area of the town that has been controlled by Russian military police and Syrian forces for the past week.

A government-organized media tour did not include the building where, according to rescue workers and medics who were in town at the time, dozens of people were killed by poison gas. In the case of chlorine, it is permitted to possess it for civilian use, but not to use it as a weapon.

At a meeting in Luxembourg, the 28 European Union foreign ministers endorsed the missile strikes and considered steps to deepen Assad's isolation.

The US launched missiles at a Syrian airbase in response to that attack, and President Donald Trump warned after Saturday's strikes that the US was "locked and loaded" to respond if chemical weapons were used again.

The Western leaders faced scrutiny at home over their actions, with Britain's May facing questions over why she did not seek parliamentary approval for the action.

In France, the conservatives, the far-left and the far-right have all criticised the strikes.

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