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Autopsies show sarin gas used against Syrian town, Turkey says


Rex Tillerson is visiting Russia (AP/Cliff Owen)

Rex Tillerson is visiting Russia (AP/Cliff Owen)

Rex Tillerson is visiting Russia (AP/Cliff Owen)

Test results confirm sarin gas was used in an attack on a northern Syrian town earlier this month, Turkey's health minister has said.

The results were announced as the Russian military said the Syrian government is willing to let international experts examine its military base for signs of chemical weapons.

Colonel General Sergei Rudskoy, of the Russian General Staff, said Russia will provide security for international inspectors seeking to examine Syrian bases, and that Damascus has agreed to allow the inspections.

His comments came shortly after Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow will appeal to the United Nations to investigate the attack on Khan Sheikhoun.

The April 4 chemical weapons attack on the rebel-held town in Idlib province left nearly 90 people dead.

The United States blamed President Bashar Assad's government and launched nearly 60 cruise missiles on Friday at the Shayrat air base in the central province of Homs, where it claims the attack originated.

Moscow, which is a strong backer of the Syrian government, has dismissed suggestions that Damascus could be behind the attack. The Syrian government also denied the allegation, saying its air force bombed a rebel arsenal that had chemical weapons stored inside.

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Mr Putin told reporters on Tuesday that Russia would appeal to a UN agency in the Hague, urging it to launch an official probe.

The Russian president also said Moscow has received intelligence about planned "provocations" using chemical weapons that would be used to pin the blame on the Syrian government.

The Russian statements came as US secretary of state Rex Tillerson arrived in Moscow where he will meet Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

In Turkey, a main backer of the Syrian opposition, health minister Recep Akdag said test results conducted on victims of the Khan Sheikhoun attack confirm that sarin gas was used.

Mr Akdag said that blood and urine samples taken from the victims confirmed that they were subjected to the nerve agent.

Turkey last week conducted autopsies on three victims of the gas attack who were brought from Syria.

Officials from the World Health Organisation and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons participated in the autopsies.

In Damascus, a Syrian official said foreign minister Walid al-Moallem will visit Russia on Thursday where he will meet officials in Moscow.

The official said that there might be a three-way meeting later this week in Moscow between officials from Russia, Syria and Iran.

France said it will be pressing again for a UN Security Council resolution condemning the chemical attack in Syria and calling for a thorough investigation so the world knows how it occurred and who was responsible.

France's UN ambassador, Francois Delattre, told reporters at the UN's headquarters it is important that the council put its weight behind the investigation process.

The international chemical weapons watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, is already trying to ascertain the facts concerning the April 4 attack on Khan Sheikhoun.

Mr Delattre said it was too early to say whether France, Britain and the United States will move ahead with the text of the resolution they put forward last week or change it.

US Senator John McCain said stopping President Assad's "murderous rampage" does not preclude America from fighting the Islamic State group.

At a press conference in Sarajevo, the Republican senator said the US "is the most powerful nation on earth" and "can do both at the same time".

Mr McCain said Assad is "a war criminal and must go". He said the "needless and senseless slaughter of innocent men, women and children is an obligation for all of us," including Russia, to stop.

Later, White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested Adolf Hitler did not use chemical weapons.

Mr Spicer, comparing Hitler to Syria's Assad, said Hitler "didn't even sink to using chemical weapons".

He tried to clarify his statement, saying Hitler did not use chemical weapons on his own people "in the same way" as Assad.


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