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Mattis Warns Assad on Chemical Weapons | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, right, and Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman attend a joint press conference at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, Israel, Friday, April 21, 2017. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool Photo via AP)

Tel Aviv – US Secretary of Defense James Mattis drew on Friday a “red line” against head of the Syrian regime Bashar al-Assad, warning that the latter would pay the price if he uses chemical weapons again.

“And they would be ill-advised to try to use any again. We made that very clear with our strike,” on the Shayrat Airport in Homs, the Secretary of Defense said.

Speaking in a joint press conference with his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman in Tel Aviv, Mattis said there was no doubt that the Syrian regime has retained stockpiles of chemical weapons.

“I can say authoritatively they have retained some. It’s a violation of the UN Security Council resolutions. And it’s going to have to be taken up diplomatically,” he said.

The file of the “chemical” was also part of a telephone call between US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Friday night.

Both men agreed “to issue instructions for pondering a possibility to organize an independent investigation on the (Khan Sheykhun) incident, under the aegis of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)” Russian Foreign Ministry said in a press release.

The US State of Defense also announced on Friday night that US forces killed a close associate of the so-called caliph of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi during an operation launched on April 6 in the eastern Syria city of Mayadin about 27 miles east of Deir Ezor.

The State of Defense confirmed that Abu Bakr al-Uzbeki, an operative of ISIS, also facilitated the high-profile attack on a nightclub in Istanbul on New Year’s Eve that killed 39 civilians.

“Uzbeki facilitated the movement of ISIS foreign terror militants and funds,” a Centcom spokesman said, noting the deceased terrorists had played a key role in ISIS’s external terror-attack plotting.

“ISIS remains committed to taking advantage of failed and weakened states, and we continue to move against those terror plotters as we go forward,” Air Force Col. John J. Thomas said while briefing the Pentagon press corps by telephone from Centcom headquarters in Tampa, Florida.