USA officials say Russian inaction enabled Syria chemical attack

USA officials say Russian inaction enabled Syria chemical attack

"They said there was no consensus on whether the Russians were involved in the attack or had foreknowledge of it", he adds. A spokesman for the Russian defense ministry said the USA had no proof of chemical weapons at the air base.

"I think what we should do is ask Russian Federation, how could it be, if you have advisers at that airfield, that you didn't know that the Syrian air force was preparing and executing a mass murder attack with chemical weapons?" national security advisor H.R. McMaster told Fox News on Sunday. He says Russian Federation can play a role in Syria's future but that aligning with Assad won't serve Russia's long-term interests.

"Is that a long term alliance that serves Russia's interests?"

Britain had hoped the threat of sanctions would strengthen Tillerson's hand in talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

"Russia's allegations fit with a pattern of deflecting blame from the (Syrian) regime and attempting to undermine the credibility of its opponents", one of the White House officials said.

The comments represented a departure from what Haley had said before the United States hit a Syrian air base with 59 Tomahawk missiles on Thursday in retaliation for what it said was a chemical weapons attack by Assad's forces on Syrian civilians. In Italy, diplomats spoke of possible new sanctions on Syria's and Russia's militaries, and additional USA military action if Assad's forces continue attacking civilians.

Mattis says he trusts Assad regrets last week's chemical weapons attack, given the USA retaliatory strikes.

"There is no change to our military posture" in Syria, Tillerson said on ABC's "This Week" program. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the G7 was considering new sanctions on Russian military figures to press Moscow to end military support for Assad, but the proposal was not adopted.

"It is clear to all of us that reign of the Assad family is coming to an end, but the question of how that ends and the transition itself could be very important in our view to the durability, the stability inside a unified Syria". The resulting political talks would take place under the auspices of the United Nations process in Geneva.

"To date, Astana has not achieved much progress", Tillerson said. The inclusion of those countries is important because the USA strategy for Syria involves enlisting help from Mideast nations to ensure security and stability in Syria after the Islamic State group is vanquished.

Ever since Russian Federation embarked on its military adventure in Syria, Vladimir Putin's relationship with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad has been characterised more as a marriage of convenience than an ideological meeting of minds.

Trump had previously appeared disinclined to intervene against the Syrian leader and the attack raised expectations that he might now be ready to adopt a tougher-than-expected stance with Russia, Assad's main backer.

"The Syrian government would be ill-advised ever again to use chemical weapons", Mattis said.

The official, who wasn't authorized to speak publicly on intelligence matters and demanded anonymity, didn't give precise timing for when the drone was in the area, where more than 80 people were killed.

Russian President Vladimir Putin - whom Tillerson will not be meeting with, according to the trip's latest itinerary - said that in Tillerson's recent rhetoric he heard echoes of the days leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The Kremlin declined to say whether Putin would meet with Tillerson, in line with its usual practice of not announcing such meetings ahead of time.

The United States said its strike on the Syrian airbase near Homs on Friday was a one-off, and not a strategic shift. Since last Thursday's cruise missile strike, Tillerson and other USA officials appear to have reverted to the past administration's rhetoric of insisting that Assad is on the way out, without outlining any strategy for making that happen. Even if Moscow co-operates, the allegations of election meddling have weakened the US leader's hand to deliver on any significant carrot, such as a loosening of the USA and European economic sanctions stemming from Russia's actions in Ukraine.

Uncertainty about objectives persisted as Tillerson met Tuesday on the sidelines of the Lucca meeting with diplomats from "like-minded" countries on Syria, including Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as well as G-7 members.

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