US warns Russia not to interfere with Syrian 'chemical attack' site

A Syrian boy receives treatment at a hospital in Aleppo on Nov. 24, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 27 November 2018
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US warns Russia not to interfere with Syrian 'chemical attack' site

  • Pentagon says Assad may try to interfere with the site of the incident
  • Damascus has formally asked for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to investigate the alleged attack

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon warned Russia on Tuesday against interfering with the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria’s regime-held city of Aleppo.
Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime has accused armed groups of carrying out a “toxic gas” attack Saturday that left dozens of people struggling to breathe and prompted government ally Russia to launch retaliatory air strikes against “terrorist groups.”
Damascus has formally asked for the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to investigate the alleged attack.
The Pentagon said Assad may try to interfere with the site of the incident and build a narrative to justify attacking the rebel-held stronghold of Idlib, which is currently protected under a 10-week-old truce deal in northern Syria.
“It is essential to ensure that the Syrian regime does not seize on false pretexts to undermine this cease-fire and launch an offensive in Idlib,” Pentagon spokesman Commander Sean Robertson said in a statement.
“We caution Russia against tampering with another suspected chemical weapons attack site and urge Russia to secure the safety of the OPCW inspectors so these allegations can be investigated in a fair and transparent manner.”
Both the Syrian regime and Russia have blamed “terrorist groups” — a term Damascus uses to mean both rebels and extremists — for Saturday’s attack.
Though it is the regime that has been blamed for most deadly chemical weapon attacks in Syria’s seven-year war, official media have recently accused fighters in Idlib of planning a chemical attack.
In April, the US, France and Britain launched joint missile strikes on Syrian targets in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in the town of Douma that left scores of people dead.
The Syrian regime blocked international inspectors from accessing the site for several days after the alleged chemical attack.
“We urge immediate inspection of the alleged site by international investigators, with freedom to interview all involved and unhindered ability to collect evidence,” Robertson said.


Lebanese budget protesters clash with security in Beirut

Updated 12 min 18 sec ago
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Lebanese budget protesters clash with security in Beirut

  • Over one hundred protesters gathered Monday outside the Government House in downtown Beirut
  • Lebanon faces a looming fiscal crisis as the economy struggles with soaring debt

BEIRUT: Security forces opened water cannons on Lebanese anti-austerity protesters in the country’s capital on Monday, as the government continued to hold marathon meetings to discuss severe budget cuts.
Lebanon faces a looming fiscal crisis as the economy struggles with soaring debt, rising unemployment and slow growth. The government’s tightened budget and key reforms aim to unlock billions of dollars in pledged foreign assistance. But planned cuts have unleashed a wave of public discontent, amid leaks that austerity could target public wages, services and social benefits.

A retired Lebanese soldier chants slogans while holding an army flag, during a protest in Beirut, Lebanon, Monday. (AP)

Over one hundred protesters gathered Monday outside the Government House in downtown Beirut shouting “Thieves, thieves!” as the Cabinet met for its 16th session and struggles to reach agreement.
Protesters pushed back against police lines and set fire to tires outside the building. At least two policemen and one civilian were wounded in the scuffles.
Among those demonstrating Monday were public and private school teachers and retired officers.
The government, headed by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, has sought to calm nerves while also describing the upcoming budget as the most austere in Lebanon’s history.
Hariri said he hopes the government will be able to send the budget to parliament later this week.
Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said the cabinet made “important progress” in discussions Sunday.