US, Britain, France launch air strikes in Syria

Russia says Syria chemical attack 'staged' with help of foreign secret service

Igor Konashenkov, a Russian defense ministry spokesman, said: "We have ... evidence that proves Britain was directly involved in organizing this provocation".

The U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook transits the Atlantic Ocean May 28, 2017. Specifying the age of the systems appeared to be a slap at President Donald Trump who had boasted on Twitter that missiles used against Syria would "nice, new and smart".

Russian president Vladimir Putin has denounced the missile strikes by the US, France and the United Kingdom as an "act of aggression" that would exacerbate the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.

Earlier this week, a United States attack on Syria looked imminent as Trump warned Russian Federation to "get ready" for missiles, but then on Thursday he appeared to back away, tweeting that an American attack could come "very soon or not so soon at all".

Antonov added: "Insulting the President of Russian Federation is unacceptable and inadmissible", and said that the USA "has no moral right to blame other countries" since it possesses a large arsenal of chemical weapons of its own.

"I have repeatedly expressed my deep disappointment that the Security Council failed to agree on a dedicated mechanism for effective accountability for the use of chemical weapons in Syria", he added.

France's defense minister says its joint military operation with the US and Britain against Syria targeted three sites and that Russian Federation was informed ahead of time.

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The allied operation comes a year after the US missile strike that Trump said was meant to deter Assad from further use of chemical weapons.

White Helmets first-responders and Syrian activists have claimed the suspected chemical attack was carried out by the Syrian government on April 7 and killed more than 40 people in Douma, allegations that drew worldwide outrage and prompted the U.S. and its allies to consider a military response.

A second witness said the Barzah district of Damascus had been hit in the strikes. Russian Federation accused the West of having the sole aim in Syria of overthrowing the government as it urged US, French and British leaders to refrain from military action.

The Russian Defence Ministry on Friday (Saturday NZ Time) accused Britain of staging a fake chemical attack in a Syrian town outside Damascus, a bold charge vehemently denied by Britain as a "blatant lie". Syria's civil war, which began as a popular uprising against Assad, is now in its eighth year.

Lavrov spoke to reporters in Moscow on Friday. The Kremlin said a crisis communications link with the United States, created to avoid an accidental clash over Syria, was in use.

In his first days in his job, Bolton has quickly assumed the role of "quarterbacking" the policy part of Syria strategy. The White House said it was continuing to assess intelligence and talk to its allies about how to respond.

Nevertheless, some national security aides took Pence's unexpected appearance as an indication that he feels a needs to provide a steadying influence as Bolton takes the helm and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has been marginalized to some extent. But US intelligence agencies have not completed their assessment or reached a final conclusion, the officials said.

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