France calls for Syria chemical attack reports to be investigated

Syrian children receive treatment for a suspected chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta last year. (AFP/File photo)
Updated 23 May 2019
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France calls for Syria chemical attack reports to be investigated

  • US said Syrian government may have carried out a chlorine attack on Sunday in northwest Syria

PARIS: New allegations the Syrian government is using chemical weapons must be looked into, the French foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
The US State Department on Tuesday said it saw signs that the Syrian government may be using chemical weapons, including an alleged chlorine attack on Sunday in northwest Syria.
“We have noted with a degree of alarm these allegations, which need to be looked into,” the foreign ministry said in an online press briefing.
“We have full confidence in the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” it added.

Meanwhile, US envoy James Jeffrey said on Wednesday a cease-fire is needed in Syria’s Idlib province where there has been a recent upsurge in violence, and the United States is working toward halting the clashes, which have put tremendous pressure on civilians there, 
“What we really need in Idlib and throughout the country is a cease-fire,” Jeffrey, US special representative for Syria engagement and special envoy to the global coalition to defeat Daesh, said at a House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.
“These conflicts, back and forth exchanges....just put tremendous pressure on civilians, they raise the specter of nation-to-nation clash,” he said. “So we’re very much engaged in trying to get this stopped and get it back to the cease-fire we had basically since September.”
At least 180,000 people have fled an upsurge in violence in northwest Syria, the last major stronghold of rebels who have fought against President Bashar Assad’s government since 2011. Government bombing has killed dozens in the past three weeks.
The latest clashes mark the biggest escalation since last summer between Assad and his rebel enemies in Idlib province and a belt of territory around it.
The region, home to an estimated 3 million people, including many who fled other parts of Syria as government forces advanced in recent years, has been partly shielded by a truce agreement since last year, brokered by Russia and Turkey. Much of the recent fighting has hit a buffer zone agreed under that deal.
The Syrian government says it is responding to attacks by Al-Qaeda-linked militants. The dominant insurgent faction in the region is the jihadist Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), although the army offensive has not focused on the central Idlib area where it is most concentrated, an HTS-aligned opposition figure said.


US will maintain pressure campaign on Iran, says Pompeo

Updated 16 min 55 sec ago
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US will maintain pressure campaign on Iran, says Pompeo

  • Pompeo said US does not want conflict with Tehran to escalate

WASHINGTON: The US will maintain its pressure campaign on Iran and continue to deter aggression in the region, but does not want the conflict with Tehran to escalate, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday.

"We have been engaged in many messages, even this moment right here, communicating to Iran that we are there to deter aggression," Pompeo told reporters at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

"President Trump does not want war and we will continue to communicate that message while doing the things that are necessary to protect American interests in the region."

Fears of a confrontation between Iran and the US have mounted since Washington blamed Iran for last Thursday's attacks on two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz shipping lane.

In an interview with Time magazine released Tuesday, Trump said he was prepared to take military action to stop Tehran from having a nuclear bomb but left open whether he would sanction the use of force to protect Gulf oil supplies.

"Now we need to make sure that we continue to do that so that we ultimately we get the opportunity to convince Iran that it's not in their best interest to behave in this way."