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Global Watchdog to Travel to Syria to Probe Alleged Chemical Attack


A child is treated in a hospital in Douma, eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, Syria, after a suspected chemical attack April, 7, 2018. (White Helmets/Handout via Reuters)

A global chemical weapons watchdog said Tuesday it will send a team to the Syrian town of Douma to investigate a suspected poison gas attack that killed dozens of people last weekend near Damascus.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said it would go to Douma after an appeal to do so.

"This has coincided with the request from the Syrian Arab Republic and the Russian Federation to investigate the allegations of chemical weapons use in Douma," OPCW said. "The team is preparing to deploy to Syria shortly."

FILE - United Nations inspectors arrive in a van at the headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), in The Hague, Aug. 31, 2013.
FILE - United Nations inspectors arrive in a van at the headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), in The Hague, Aug. 31, 2013.

The White House announced Tuesday President Donald Trump will cancel a planned trip to Latin America to "oversee the American response to Syria."

Trump said his administration will likely say "after the fact" how it decided to respond to the suspected chemical attack.

"It will be met, and it will be met forcefully," Trump said before meeting with senior military leaders late Monday.

U.S. President Donald Trump (2nd-R) speaks in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, April 9, 2018, at the start of a meeting with military and national security leaders.
U.S. President Donald Trump (2nd-R) speaks in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, April 9, 2018, at the start of a meeting with military and national security leaders.

He highlighted what he said was the power of the United States to stop atrocities like the attack Saturday in rebel-held eastern Ghouta that killed at least 40 people.

"We have a lot of options, militarily," he said, with out giving specifics.Last year, he ordered airstrikes on a Syrian airfield used to launch another chemical attack.

The U.S. has also requested that the U.N. Security Council vote Tuesday afternoon on a resolution calling for a new investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria. A resolution would need nine votes and no vetos by Russia, Britain, China or the U.S. to be approved.Russia says it does not agree with the U.S. draft.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he is outraged by continued reports of chemical weapon attacks in Syria and called for a thorough, impartial investigation with the OPCW given full access to do its work.

FILE - Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia holds up a copy of a report as he speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York, April 5, 2018.
FILE - Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia holds up a copy of a report as he speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York, April 5, 2018.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said later Tuesday that Russia would submit a Security Council resolution proposing OPCW investigators be sent to probe the attack in Syria.

That followed comments from Moscow's envoy Vassily Nebenzia, who said Russian experts have already visited the site, collected soil samples, interviewed witnesses and medical personnel, and that no chemical weapons attack had taken place.

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told the Security Council on Monday that both Russia and Iran could stop the Syrian government's "murderous destruction," adding that Moscow's hands are "covered in the blood of Syrian children."

Britain says Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson spoke to Acting U.S. Secretary of State John Sullivan by phone and the two "agreed that, based on current media reports and reports from those on the ground, this attack bore hallmarks of previous chemical weapons attacks by the Assad regime."

French President Emmanuel Macron has also spoken by telephone with Trump several times to coordinate their response to Saturday's attack.

William Gallo, Jeff Seldin, Margaret Besheer, Victor Beattie contributed to this report.

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