Russia's Putin predicts global "chaos" if West hits Syria again

By Jack Stubbs and Laila Bassam

MOSCOW / DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Sunday that more Western attacks on Syria would bring chaos to world affairs as Washington prepared to increase pressure about Russia with new sanctions.

In a telephone conversation with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani, Putin and Rouhani agreed that Western attacks had damaged the chances of achieving a political resolution in the seven-year-old Syrian conflict, according to a Kremlin statement. [19659004] "Vladimir Putin, in particular, stressed that if such actions committed in violation of the UN Charter continue, it will inevitably lead to chaos in international relations," said the Kremlin statement.

United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, told CBS's "Face the Nation" program that the United States would announce new economic sanctions on Monday aimed at companies "that were dealing with equipment" related to the alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

On Saturday, the United States, France and Great Britain launched 105 missiles against what the Pentagon said were three chemical weapons facilities in Syria in retaliation for a possible attack of poison gas in Douma on April 7.

(For a graphic detailing airstrikes in Syria https://tmsnrt.rs/2EKgAMN)

Western countries blame Assad for Douma's attack that killed dozens of people. The Syrian government and its ally Russia have denied participation in such an attack.

The bombings marked the largest intervention of Western countries against Assad and his ally Russia.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday he had convinced Trump, previously said he wanted to get American forces out of Syria, to stay "long term."

The United States, France and Great Britain said the missile attacks were limited to Syria's chemical weapons capabilities and do not aim to topple Assad or intervene in the civil war. Macron said in an interview aired on BFM TV, RMC radio and Mediapart online news that he had convinced Trump to focus on chemical weapons sites.

The White House rejected Macron's comments about Trump's intentions for US forces.

"The US mission has not changed: the president has made it clear that he wants American forces to return home as quickly as possible," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

"We are determined to completely crush ISIS and create the conditions" In addition, we expect our regional allies and partners to assume greater responsibility, both militarily and financially, for securing the region. "

" IT IS DIFFICULT FOR US, BUT WE DO MORE DAMAGE TO THE UNITED STATES "

Responding to Haley's comments on plans for new sanctions, Evgeny Serebrennikov, deputy director of the defense committee of the upper house of the Russian parliament, said Moscow was ready for sanctions, according to RIA ne ws agency.

"They are difficult for us, but will cause more damage to the USA. UU and Europe, "Serebrennikov quoted RIA.

In Damascus, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad met with inspectors from the OPCW chemical weapons watchdog world for approximately three hours in the presence of Russian officials and a senior security official. Syrian

Inspectors had to try to visit Douma's site, Moscow condemned Western states for refusing to wait for OPCW's conclusions before attacking.

Mekdad refused to comment to journalists waiting outside the hotel where the meeting took place.

Assad told a group of Russian lawmakers that the western missile strikes were an act of aggression, Russian news agencies reported.

Russian agencies quoted lawmakers saying that Assad was of "good humor", praised the Soviet-era air defense systems that Syria used to repel Western attacks and accepted an invitation to visit Russia at a time not specified.

Trump had said: "Mission accomplished" on Twitter after the strikes, although Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie at the Pentagon acknowledged that elements of the program remained and could not guarantee that Syria would not be able to carry out a chemical attack in the future.

Russian and Iranian military aid over the past three years has allowed Assad to crush the rebels in overthrowing him.

Although Israel has sometimes called for more US participation against Assad and its reinforcements of Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah in Syria, it expressed support for Saturday's air strikes by Western powers.

RISK OF BROADER CONFRONTATION

The Hezbollah leader in Lebanon said on Sunday that the Western attacks on Syria did not accomplish anything, including terrorizing the army, helping the insurgents or serving Israel's interests.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said that the US military had limited its attacks because it knew that a broader attack would provoke retaliation by Damascus and its allies and inflame the region.

"The American (military) knows well that it is going towards a broad confrontation and a great operation against the regime and the army and allied forces in Syria could not finish, and any such confrontation would inflame the whole region," Nasrallah said.

The Shiite Hezbollah movement, heavily armed and backed by Iran, whiich fights together with the Syrian army and is represented in the government of Beirut, has been a vital ally of Damascus in the war in Syria.

France, the United States and Great Britain distributed a draft resolution to the UN Security Council late on Saturday to establish an independent investigation into who is responsible for chemical weapons attacks in Syria. The mechanism would consider cases in which the OPCW's fact-finding mission has established that chemical weapons were or were probably used.

Diplomats said negotiations on the draft resolution would begin on Monday and it was not clear when the United States, France and Britain wanted to put it to a vote.

(Report by Jack Stubbs in Moscow and Laila Bassam in Beirut; Additional reporting by Jeff Mason, Susan Cornwell and Joel Schectman in Washington, Michelle Nichols in New York, Samia Nakhoul, Tom Perry, Laila Bassam, Ellen Francis and Angus McDowall in Beirut, Kinda Makieh in Barzeh, Syria, Elizabeth Piper, Michael Holden and Guy Faulconbridge in London, Laurence Frost, Michel Rose and Ingrid Melander in Paris, Andrey Ostroukh in Moscow, Alison Bevege in Sydney, Written by Richard Cowan, Nick Edition ; Zieminski and Peter Cooney)


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