'Mission Accomplished' in Syria, Trump declares on Twitter

Tensions reached a high point in 2014 when pro Russian forces in Ukraine were accused of downing a civilian airliner killing nearly 300 people aboard

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opened the Security Council meeting without referring to either Russian Federation or the USA, but stressed his deep concern that the growing tensions could spiral into broad conflict.

The US gave no details of civilian or military casualties, but its military leaders insisted targets had been chosen carefully to minimise civilian casualties, but maximise the message intended for the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad.

"Syria indeed today represents the most serious threat to worldwide peace and security", Guterres said.

Syria's chief allies, Russian Federation and Iran, called the use of force by the United States, Britain and France a "military crime" and "act of aggression" with the potential to worsen a humanitarian crisis after years of civil war.

He said in an address to the nation that he had ordered "precision strikes" against "chemical weapons capabilities" of the Syrian government. "The suffering it causes is horrendous".

Mattis' remarks at a House Armed Services Committee hearing followed a series of Trump tweets this week that initially indicated he was committed to bombing Syria but later suggested he was awaiting further advice and assessment.

There were signs of a global effort to head off a direct confrontation between Russian Federation and the West.

Looming over the military planning are questions about how effective a punitive strike - no matter how broad - will be in deterring Assad from resuming chemical attacks.

"They are the guarantors of law and order in the town", RIA news agency quoted Russia's defence ministry as saying.

In early March, Gerasimov said they had intelligence about a "provocation" planned by rebel militants, engineered to accuse Syrian government troops of using chemical weapon in Eastern Ghouta.

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Administration officials and diplomats say foreign governments have learned to discount many of Trump's tweets, particularly those clearly aimed at spinning up his political base or goading foreign adversaries.

Wednesday: Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russian military inspectors found no evidence of a chemical attack. During one speech, he said, "We must as a nation be more unpredictable".

"Washington has adopted a categorical policy to unleash a military scenario against Syria", the Russian ambassador to the U.N., Vasilly Nebenzia, told the council.

Russian currency and stock markets, preoccupied with the threat of USA military action in Syria and the fallout from Washington's new sanctions, did not react to the draft legislation, which will be discussed in the lower house next week. "We are continuing to assess intelligence and are engaged in conversations with our partners and allies".

White Helmets first-responders and Syrian activists have claimed the suspected chemical attack was carried out by the Syrian government on April 7 and killed more than 40 people in Douma, allegations that drew worldwide outrage and prompted Washington and its allies to consider a military response.

First Vice Chairman of the State Duma Ivan Melnikov added: " "It implies a ban or restriction of the import of agricultural products, raw materials and food products originating in the United States or other countries that supported the measures that the United States imposed on our country.

"I don't want to talk about a specific attack that is not yet in the offing ..."

"To make matters worse, it is Russian Federation alone that had agreed to be the guarantor of the removal of all chemical weapons from Syria", Haley said. A joint military operation, possibly with France rather than the U.S.in the lead, could send a message of worldwide unity about enforcing the prohibitions on chemical weapons.

Any US strike would probably involve the Navy, given the risk to aircraft from Russian and Syrian air defenses. A United States guided-missile destroyer, the USS Donald Cook, is in the Mediterranean.

Russia's military says Britain was behind the alleged April 7 chemical attack that killed dozens of Syrians in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus.

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