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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russian UN Envoy: First Priority Is to Avert Wider Syrian War

By Margaret Besheer April 12, 2018

Russia's U.N. ambassador urged the United States and its allies Thursday to avoid a military strike on Syria, saying the goal was to avert a wider war.

Security Council members met privately to discuss the escalating rhetoric and threats of military reprisals after the United States, Britain and France blamed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces for a suspected chlorine gas attack April 7 on the rebel enclave of Douma in eastern Ghouta.

The attack killed at least 40 people and sickened hundreds more. Damascus has denied using chemical weapons.

Russian envoy Vassily Nebenzia told reporters after Thursday's meeting that "aggressive policies" and "preparations" by the three countries were a violation of the U.N. Charter and a threat to international peace and security.

"The immediate priority," he said, "is to avert the danger of war."

When asked whether he meant a war between Russia and the United States, Nebenzia said, "We cannot exclude any possibilities, unfortunately, because we saw the messages coming from Washington. They were very bellicose."

Nebenzia said Moscow was very concerned with the "dangerous escalation" in Syria.

"We hope that there will be no point of no return – that the U.S. and their allies will refrain from military action against a sovereign state," he said.

Russia's military is present in Syria, where it is supporting the Assad government.

President Donald Trump has said a U.S. response to the alleged chemical attack will come "fairly soon." On Wednesday, he warned that "missiles will be coming to Syria."

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