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Washington Warns Assad against Chemical Arms Use as Moscow Dismisses ‘Provocation’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Dozens were killed in a suspected chemical attack in a town in Syria’s rebel-held northern Idlib province on April 4, 2017. (Reuters)

Washington, Moscow – The United States has warned the head of the Syrian regime against launching a new chemical weapons attack, threatening Bashar Assad that he would “pay a heavy price” if it went ahead.

Russia, for its part, rejected the warnings, without ruling out the possibility that ISIS may carry out “provocative chemical attacks”.

Late on Monday, the White House issued a statement warning that if Assad “conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

“The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said.

“The activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017, chemical weapons attack,” he added.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said on Tuesday that the US was putting Syria, Russia and Iran on notice if another chemical attack took place.

“I believe that the goal is at this point is not just to send Assad a message, but to send Russia and Iran a message,” she stated.

“If this happens again, we are putting you on notice and my hope is that this warning will certainly get Russia and Iran to take a second look,” she added.

Meanwhile, Moscow denied on Tuesday knowledge of any new plan of using chemical arms.

“We don’t know what it is based on … there was no impartial international investigation into the previous tragedy that involved chemical agents; thus we do not consider it possible to lay the responsibility on the Syrian armed forces,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said as quoted by TASS news agency.

“However, cases of the use of chemical agents by ISIS terrorists and other criminal groups have been recorded earlier, so there is potential danger of the recurrence of such situations,” he added.

Leonid Slutsky, head of the International Affairs Committee of the Russian State Duma, said Tuesday described the US accusations as “unconfirmed and provocative”.

“If in this case another chemical attack follows and Assad will be accused of this, then there will be air strikes of the US Air Force against Assad’s army targets, which is obviously the next stage of provocation,” RIA Novosti quoted Slutsky as saying.