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Syria condemns ‘reckless’ US threats

Syria and its ally Russia have rejected allegations that a chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Douma killed more than 40 people.

The Syrian government has said US threats to attack it are “reckless” and endanger international peace and security.

The foreign ministry said that Washington is using an alleged chemical attack near the capital to target Syria, and that the threats are hindering the government’s efforts to fight “terrorism”.

Syria and its ally Russia have rejected allegations by activists and rescuers that a chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Douma over the weekend killed more than 40 people.

US President Donald Trump blamed the suspected attack on Syrian government forces and has threatened to respond militarily, tweeting that missiles “will be coming”.

It prompted a slew of Russian comments that warned that US strikes could trigger a direct military clash between the two former Cold War adversaries.

Syria’s foreign ministry said Washington is using the alleged chemical attack as a pretext to target Syria.

“We are not surprised by this reckless escalation from a regime like the one in the United States, which has and continues to sponsor terrorism in Syria,” said the statement, carried by state media.

It added that recent statements from Washington “show (the Trump administration) lacks not only principles and values but also wisdom and logic and that in itself endangers international peace and security”.

The Syrian government calls all opposition groups “terrorists”, and has accused Washington of backing terrorism, including Islamic State militants.

“The pretext of a chemical attack has become well known to everybody and is a flimsy and unsubstantiated excuse to target Syria,” the ministry statement said.

If such threats from the US and its allies, France and Britain, are intended to stop Damascus from fighting terrorism, “they are delusional”, the statement also said.

“The Syrian state will continue to fight terrorism no matter what their reaction is.”

The Syrian government said its invitation to the international chemical weapons watchdog to send a fact-finding mission to the country is “proof” that Damascus is innocent and has not used chemical weapons.

Russian politicians said Moscow would view a US air strike on Syria as a war crime that could trigger a direct military clash between the two powers.

Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin went even further.

In an interview with Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV station, Mr Zasypkin said any missiles fired at Syria would be shot down and the launching sites targeted.

He said he was referring to a statement by Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian armed forces chief of staff.

“If there is a strike by the Americans, then … the missiles will be downed and the source of the missiles targeted,” Mr Zasypkin said.

Meanwhile, Europe’s airspace authorities warned aircraft to be careful over the coming days when flying close to Syria because of possible military action against President Bashar Assad’s forces.

The Eurocontrol airspace organisation said that the European Aviation Safety Agency had sent a Rapid Alert Notification that flight operators needed to consider the possibility of air or missile strikes on Syria.

In a notice posted to Eurocontrol’s website, EASA said: “Due to the possible launch of air strikes into Syria with air-to-ground and/or cruise missiles within the next 72 hours, and the possibility of intermittent disruption of radio navigation equipment, due consideration needs to be taken.”

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