Published: Tue, April 17, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

Syria forces enter Douma, last holdout in rebel bastion - state media

Syria forces enter Douma, last holdout in rebel bastion - state media

The mission of experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to probe the use of chemical weapons in Syria's Douma stalled on Monday amid United States accusations against Russian Federation that it meddled with the site of the attack.

Most key players in the seven-year-old conflict have preempted the fact-finding team's results, including the Western powers that conducted Saturday's punitive strikes on the grounds that they already had proof.

OPCW inspectors arrived in Syria over the weekend to establish whether chemical weapons had been used in Douma.

The team had been expected to begin their field work on Sunday but they met with officials at their Damascus hotel instead and a strict media blackout was imposed on their schedule.

In the fraught aftermath of the suspected attack in Douma and the West´s response, Washington also prepared to increase pressure on Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad´s main ally, with new economic sanctions.

The targeted sites were largely empty and were all said to be facilities for chemical weapons storage or production.

Trump's "Mission Accomplished" tweet earned him parallels with George W. Bush's fatefully premature victory speech days after the 2003 invasion of Iraq. "Russia and Syria must cooperate".

France convinced United States to 'stay in Syria': Macron
Le Drian insisted it was important to continue talking to Russian Federation , and that Macron's trip to St. Earlier this month, Trump declared the US would "be coming out of Syria very soon".

A Russian veto at the United Nations last November means the OPCW is empowered only to state if chemical weapons have been used, and not to attribute responsibility.

"UN as well as OPCW investigation teams rely on the advice and support of the UN Department of Safety and Security and their contacts with local actors", Trapp explained.

"There is no silver bullet - in most cases, no single piece of evidence will be sufficient", said Ralf Trapp, a consultant and member of a previous FFM mission.

The United States, Britain and France carried out a wave of strikes against the Syrian regime on Saturday a week after the suspected deadly gas attack on the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Douma, in which 40 people were said to have been killed. For over a week now, Syrian government flags have flown over Douma, the biggest town in the agricultural Eastern Ghouta region near Damascus, since rebels there surrendered after five years of siege.

Britain's Ambassador Peter Wilson said in The Hague that the United Nations had cleared the inspectors to go but they had been unable to reach Douma because Syria and Russian Federation had been unable to guarantee their safety.

The commander of Russian Radiological Protection Troops Igor Kirillov said on Monday that footage of the alleged chemical attack in Douma was deliberately staged and that the so-called evidence was "fake".

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