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France urges Russia to join peace push after Syria strike

Agencies | Reuters/Beirut 16 Apr 18 | 03:24 AM

France is urging Russia to join a push for a political solution in Syria after joint US, French and British attacks on Syrian chemical weapons sites.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in an interview published Sunday in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper that “we should join our efforts to promote a political process in Syria that would allow a way out of the crisis."

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France has continued to talk regularly with Russia even as East-West tensions have grown.

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday, hours before the Western missile strikes.

Western countries blamed Syria’s government for a chemical attack on a rebel-held area earlier this month that killed more than 40 people.   The Syrian government and its ally Russia denied the allegations.

Chemical inspectors to begin work in Douma

Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) chemical watchdog will begin their investigation Sunday at the site of an alleged chemical attack near Damascus, a senior official said.

“The fact-funding team arrived in Damascus on Saturday and is due to go to Douma on Sunday," Deputy Foreign Minister Ayman Soussan told AFP.

A delegation of experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in the Hague, is tasked with investigating an April 7 attack on Douma, just east of Damascus.

Western powers say chemical substances, most likely chlorine and sarin, were used in the attack and killed at least 40 civilians.

The alleged attack, which Damascus and its Russian ally have denied ever happened, prompted an unprecedented wave of missile strikes by the United States, France and Britain yesterday.

Soussan reiterated a pledge by the Syrian government that the chemical experts would be allow to investigate unimpeded.

"We will ensure they can work professionally, objectively, impartially and free of any pressure," he said.

No planned missile strikes yet: Britain

There are no plans as yet to repeat missile strikes on Syria, but Britain will consider further action if President Bashar al-Assad again uses chemical weapons against his people, foreign minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday.

In a show of support for Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to join the US and France in attacking chemical weapons facilities in Syria on Saturday, her one-time political rival Johnson said it was the right thing to do.

But the prime minister may not find such backing when she faces parliament on Monday, where some lawmakers are angry that May took military action without their approval - a process that has increasingly become a tradition in Britain.

Speaking to the BBC, Johnson said what he described as the successful strikes on three sites in Syria were a message from the world that enough was enough, but acknowledged he could not say whether Assad still had chemical weapons.           

Reuters

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