US, Russia in crisis talks as Syria missile strikes loom

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Russian officials had said US and Russian military staffs remained in contact regarding Syria, even as Russian media carried stories in recent days about the potential outbreak of "World War III" as a effect of a USA airstrike against Assad.

Trump himself appeared on Thursday to cast doubt on at least the timing of any US -led military action, tweeting: "Never said when an attack on Syria would take place".

Russia's United Nations ambassador says the top priority now is to avert war in Syria and doesn't rule out the possibility of a U.S.

"We are confident that we have crippled Syria's chemical weapons program".

It said that "all responsibility" rests with Washington, London and Paris.

The joint operation came one week after a suspected chemical attack outside Damascus left more than 40 people dead.

Meanwhile, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) says experts are travelling to Syria and will start investigations on Saturday.

Since Saturday, when images of ashen toddlers struggling for breath emerged after the alleged attack, there has been a sustained military buildup in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Russian military said on March 13 that it would respond to any US strike on Syria by targeting any missiles and launchers involved. Sanders said the president's national security team to discuss the options regarding Syria.

Immediately after the attack, hundreds of residents began gathering in the landmark Omayyad square of the Syrian capital.

They honked vehicle horns, flashed victory signs and waved Syrian flags in support of the Assad regime.

The American president also criticized Russian Federation for its support of Syrian leader Bashar Assad, saying "you shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!'"

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U.S., British and French attack aircraft, including two U.S. Air Force B-1B strategic bombers, launched stealthy, long-range missiles from outside Syrian airspace, officials said.

Trump's spokeswoman dismissed this idea, and pointedly refused to acknowledge that concern about the risks of a direct confrontation with Russian Federation would hold the U.S. military back.

"Even non-significant incidents would lead to new waves of migrants to Europe and to other consequences, which neither we nor our European neighbours need", Lavrov said.

"I spoke to the President [Donald Trump] this morning and he said if the Syrian regime uses this poison gas again, the United States is locked and loaded".

Assad, who is supported by Iranian-back fighters as well as the Russian air force, has cemented his control over most of the western, more heavily populated, part of the country. "It is due to arrive in Damascus on April 14", TASS news agency quoted Lavrov as saying.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called for restraint and for countries to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation in Syria after the United States, France and Britain carried out the strikes.

Nebenzia said the situation was "very dangerous" and they "cannot exclude any possibilities".

"All nations and all people will be harmed if we allow Assad to normalize the use of chemical weapons".

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

The talks stressed that threats of some Western countries to attack Syria, "based on the lies fabricated by these countries and their tools of the terrorist organizations inside Syria, came after the liberation of the eastern Ghouta and the failure of a new bet of those upon which these countries have relied in the war on Syria". Michael Pregent, an expert on Iraq and adviser to senior USA military commanders during the Iraq war, cautioned in a tweet, "Delays allow Assad to move assets to Russian bases", and "any strike at this point is a face saving gesture".

"The use of chemical weapons crosses a red line that humanity can no longer tolerate", Yoav Gallant, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's security cabinet, wrote on Twitter.

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