Russia, Iran, Syria issue warning to US after trilateral meeting

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, right, shakes hands with his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem, left, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov looks on after a joint press conference in Moscow Friday. (AFP)
Updated 15 April 2017
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Russia, Iran, Syria issue warning to US after trilateral meeting

MOSCOW/WASHINGTON: Russia, Syria and Iran strongly warned the US on Friday against launching new strikes on Syria, and called for an international probe into last week’s chemical attack there.
However, a US State Department official who spoke to Arab News on condition of anonymity on Friday reaffirmed the legitimacy of President Donald Trump’s military action.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who hosted his Iranian and Syrian counterparts at a trilateral meeting in Moscow, denounced the US attack as a “flagrant violation” of international law.
He warned that any further such action would entail “grave consequences not only for regional but global security.”
The State Department official defended the US action on April 6 as “justified, legitimate and proportionate.”
Echoing Washington’s criticism of Syrian President Bashar Assad, the official said the regime’s “use of chemical weapons in violation of international law has been broadly condemned by the international community.”
Meanwhile, the State Department said Thursday the Assad regime’s chemical attack on civilians amounts to a “war crime.”
It also ridiculed comments by Assad in an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the attack was fabricated by the US to justify a military strike.
“Sadly, it’s vintage Assad. It is an attempt by him to throw up false flags, create confusion,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner. “It wasn’t only a violation of the laws of war, but it was, we believe, a war crime.”
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said the trilateral meeting sent a “strong message” to Washington.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said the participants warned that any unilateral action by the US is unacceptable.
The US has blamed the Syrian regime for the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhun that killed more than 80 people on April 4, and responded by striking a Syrian air base.
Russia says the victims were killed by toxic agents released from an opposition chemical arsenal, and warned against blaming Damascus until an independent inquiry has been conducted.
Moscow vetoed a Western-drafted UN resolution on Wednesday, saying it failed to mention the need to inspect the area of the attack.
Lavrov accused the US and its allies of trying to stymie an international probe into the attack.
He expressed strong skepticism about a preliminary investigation conducted by the UN chemical weapons watchdog, saying its experts failed to visit the site, and it is unclear to Russia where the samples have been taken and how they have been analyzed.
In Russia’s view, the probe conducted by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) should be widened to include experts from many nations, he said.
“If our US colleagues and some European nations believe that their version is right, they have no reason to fear the creation of such an independent group,” Lavrov added.
“The investigation into this high-profile incident must be transparent and leave no doubt that someone is trying to hide something.”
Lavrov said the US strike on the Syrian base has undermined peace efforts and reflects Washington’s focus on ousting Assad. “Such attempts won’t succeed,” Lavrov said.
The three ministers also discussed the beefing up of US forces on Jordan’s border with Syria. Muallem said.
He added that Russia, Iran and Syria have “common procedures against any aggression,” but would not offer any specifics.
Lavrov said Moscow has asked Washington about the purpose of the build-up, and received assurances that it is to cut supply lines between Daesh factions in Syria and Iraq.
“We will keep monitoring the issue, since the only possible reason for using military force on the territory of Syria is to fight terrorism,” Lavrov said.

— with input from AP


To prosecute migrants, ‘you have to take the children away’: Trump

Updated 24 min 3 sec ago
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To prosecute migrants, ‘you have to take the children away’: Trump

  • Donald Trump: “When you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally, which should happen, you have to take the children away.”
  • A chorus of critics — rights groups, Christian evangelicals, former US first ladies and some within the president’s own Republican party — are demanding an immediate end to the family separations.

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Tuesday defended the “zero tolerance” policy leading to thousands of migrant families being split on the US border as the only effective way to fight illegal immigration.
“I don’t want children taken away from parents,” he told a gathering of small business owners, before adding: “When you prosecute the parents for coming in illegally, which should happen, you have to take the children away.”
“We don’t have to prosecute them, but then we are not prosecuting them for coming in illegally. That’s not good.”
US officials say more than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents or guardians since early May, when the administration announced its push to arrest and charge anyone illegally crossing the US-Mexico border, regardless of whether they were seeking asylum.
Since children cannot be sent to the facilities where their parents are held, they are separated from them.
A chorus of critics — rights groups, Christian evangelicals, former US first ladies and some within the president’s own Republican party — are demanding an immediate end to the family separations.
But a defiant Trump has vowed America will not become a “migrant camp.”
“We don’t want people pouring into our country,” he told Tuesday’s gathering. “We want ultimately a merit-based system where people come in based on merit.”
Hammering home the need to combat smugglers who he said “game the system,” Trump accused the media of helping human traffickers.
“Those who apply for asylum legally at ports of entry are not prosecuted. The fake news media back there doesn’t talk about that,” he charged.
“They are fake,” he said. “They are helping these smugglers and these traffickers like nobody would believe.”
Trump was headed later Tuesday to Congress to huddle with Republican lawmakers, many of whom are deeply uncomfortable with the separation policy.
The president has accused Democrats of provoking the crisis by blocking legislation to combat illegal immigration.
“We want to end the border crisis by finally giving us the legal authorities and the resources to detain and remove illegal immigrant families all together and bring them back to their country,” he said.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives is expected to consider two immigration bills.
One is a hard-line measure favored by conservatives, and the other a compromise bill — which the White House has signalled has Trump’s support — that would end family separations, protect so-called Dreamer immigrants brought to the country as children, pay for boosted border security and curtail legal immigration.
Tuesday’s Republican huddle will be closely watched, in part to see whether any lawmakers directly confront the president.
Several House Republicans face tough re-election fights in November, and some may worry that public outrage over the family separations could hurt their chances.
Democrats say the crisis is of Trump’s own making, and accuse him of using children as pawns.