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Trump, allies praise Syria strikes

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) – US President Donald Trump and his allies in Britain and France on Saturday hailed their joint surgical strikes in Syria over the regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons, and warned Damascus that another such attack would be met with renewed firepower.

Hours later, the allies signaled their resolve to return to diplomacy, launching a new bid at the United Nations to investigate chemical weapons attacks in Syria.

They circulated a joint draft resolution at the Security Council that also calls for unimpeded deliveries of humanitarian aid, enforcing a ceasefire and demands that Syria engage in UN-led peace talks, according to the text obtained by AFP.

The narrowly targeted pre-dawn military operation, which took aim at three chemical weapons facilities, earned quick scorn from Russia, but a push by Moscow for condemnation of the strikes at the UN Security Council fell far short.

Trump and his allies ordered the rapid-fire overnight mission in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack a week ago on the rebel-held town of Douma that left more than 40 people dead.

Washington believes both sarin and chlorine were used in the April 7 attack, a senior US administration official told reporters on Saturday.

Both the regime of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and its ally Russia have denied all responsibility. Moscow slammed the ”aggressive actions” of the Western coalition, but has not yet responded militarily.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley warned her UN counterparts that although the mission was designed as a one-off, that did not preclude further action against Assad.

”I spoke to the President this morning and he said: ‘If the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded,”’ Haley said at emergency Security Council talks. ”When our President draws a red line, our President enforces the red line.”

Negotiations on the draft resolution put forward by the US, France, and Britain are set to begin today. Among the contentious proposals, it would establish an independent investigation of allegations of toxic gas attacks in Syria with the aim of identifying the perpetrators.

Russia in November used its veto three times to bury a previous UN-led inquiry which found that Syrian forces had dropped sarin on the town of Khan Sheikhun in April last year.

On the humanitarian side, the measure demands medical evacuations and safe passage for aid convoys to be allowed to all areas.

Diplomats said it remained unclear when the council would vote on the proposal, and they were ready to allow time for negotiations to bring Russia aboard.

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