16 April, 2018
"It is a very, very delicate circumstance, and we've got to make this judgment on a very careful, very deliberate, very well thought-through basis, knowing exactly ... how strong the evidence is", Brexit Secretary David Davis said ahead of Thursday's cabinet.
The same officials say Syria has continued to produce or procure chlorine, which also has industrial and agricultural uses.
Britain's government weighed the possibility of military action against Syria on Thursday but faced growing scepticism from opposition leaders and deeper divisions in a country still haunted by its role in the US-led invasion of Iraq.
"The Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) confirms that the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) team is on its way to Syria and will start its work as of Saturday 14 April, 2018", the watchdog said in a statement on Thursday.
"We have not yet made any decision to launch military attacks into Syria", Mattis told lawmakers on the House Armed Services committee.
Half a world away in New York, Russia's United Nations ambassador warned the priority in Syria was to avert US-led strikes that could lead to a unsafe confrontation between the world's two preeminent nuclear powers.
Al-Jaafari was quoted by SANA news agency as saying that the Syrian government was ready to facilitate the teams' entry into any point in Douma, Eastern Ghouta's largest town.
"France will shoulder its responsibility to end an intolerable threat to our collective security", said French Ambassador Francois Delattre, who called for an end to the "chemical weapons escalation in Syria".
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Macron said Thursday that France has proof the Syrian government launched chlorine gas attacks and said France would not tolerate "regimes that think everything is permitted".
He said the U.S. is trying to get an inspection team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to the site of the alleged attack.
The statement made no specific reference to military action. Asked if France is planning to participate in retaliatory attacks on Syria, he was noncommittal.
Mattis said he personally believes Syria is guilty of an "inexcusable" use of chemical weapons, while noting that the global fact-finding team would likely fall short of determining who was responsible.
Peskov wouldn't say if Moscow could use a Russia-U.S. military hotline to avoid casualties in a case of a U.S. blow, saying only that "the hotline exists and has remained active".
Rep. Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said he sees no legal justification for a USA strike in Syria, absent explicit authorization by Congress.
"Just imagine the scenario if an American missile shoots down a Russian plane, or vice-a-versa - where do we go from there?"
Russian Federation is a major backer of the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the country's civil war, and strongly opposes the US claim that Syrian government forces attacked a rebel-held town near Damascus on Saturday with chemical weapons. Russia's ambassador to Lebanon said any missiles fired at Syria would be shot down and the launching sites targeted - a stark warning of a potential major confrontation.