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Turkey says sarin gas used in Syria attack as Moscow calls for UN probe

By Bassem Mroue

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 US 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.

Mr Putin told reporters 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.

Later, White House press secretary Sean Spicer suggested even Adolf Hitler "didn't even sink to using chemical weapons" - a comment at odds with the extermination of Jews during the Holocaust in gas chambers.

Mr Spicer was trying to discuss the horror of last week's chemical weapons attack.

"We didn't use chemical weapons in World War Two," said Mr Spicer, adding that "someone as despicable as Hitler... didn't even sink to using chemical weapons".

Minutes later, Mr Spicer delivered a garbled defence of his remarks, saying Hitler did not use chemical weapons on his own people "in the same way" as Assad.

Mr Spicer later emailed reporters: "In no way was I trying to lessen the horrendous nature of the Holocaust. I was trying to draw a distinction of the tactic of using airplanes to drop chemical weapons on population centers.

"Any attack on innocent people is reprehensible and inexcusable."

Belfast Telegraph


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