Damascus invites inspectors to probe alleged chemical attack

Assad's government has invited OPCW to investigate the alleged chemical attack in Douma, in a move apparently aimed at averting possible Western military action over the incident.

President Bashar al-Assad’s government has invited international inspectors to send a team to Syria to investigate an alleged chemical attack in the town of Douma in a move apparently aimed at averting possible Western military action over the incident.

United States President Donald Trump on Monday warned of a quick, forceful response once responsibility was established. The White House said Trump will now not travel on Friday to the Summit of the Americas in Peru so that he can focus on the crisis.

At least 60 people were killed and more than 1,000 injured in Saturday’s suspected attack on Douma, then still occupied by rebel forces, according to a Syrian relief group. Syria and Russia said there was no evidence that a gas attack had taken place.

But the incident has thrust Syria’s seven-year-old conflict back to the forefront of international concern.

Adding to the volatile situation, Iran, Assad’s main ally along with Russia, threatened to respond to an airstrike on a Syrian military base on Monday that Tehran, Damascus and Moscow have blamed on Israel.

The Hague-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is trying to establish what exactly took place in Douma. But whether a team would try to get there was unclear. OPCW inspectors have been attacked on two previous missions to chemical weapons attack sites in Syria.

“Syria is keen on cooperating with the OPCW to uncover the truth behind the allegations that some Western sides have been advertising to justify their aggressive intentions,” state news agency SANA said.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the Kremlin would submit a resolution to the United Nations Security Council proposing the OPCW investigate the alleged attack.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said there was no threat of the situation in Syria resulting in a military clash between Russia and the US. TASS news agency quoted Bogdanov as saying Russia and US officials had “working contacts” over Syria and common sense would prevail.

On Monday, Trump told a meeting of military leaders and national security advisers in Washington that he would take a decision that night or shortly after on a response, and that the US had “a lot of options militarily” on Syria.

Initial US assessments have been unable to determine conclusively what materials were used in the attack and could not say with certainty that Assad’s forces were behind it.

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