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Syria´s Assad will pay `heavy price´ for chemical attack, U.S. warns


The United States had earlier warned Syria's leadership against staging a chemical weapons attack after Washington detected what appeared to be active preparations at a Syrian airfield used for such an attack in April, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

In an ominous statement issued with no supporting evidence or further explanation, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the USA had "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".

The Trump administration threatened Tuesday that Syria will pay "a heavy price" if it follows through on what the US says are preparations for another chemical weapons attack - warning of action that could plunge America deeper into a civil war alongside the fight against Islamic State militants.

Assad had denied responsibility for an April 4 attack in the rebel-held Idlib province that killed dozens of people, and Russia, Assad's key backer, sided with him.

Asked whether the focus on Assad's targeting of civilians represents a widening of the USA mission in fighting terrorism in Syria and Iraq, Haley replied: "I don't think we have to pick one or the other".

August 31, 2013: Obama says he will go to Congress for authorization to carry out punitive strikes against the Syrian government, but appears to lack support among US lawmakers. The United States Navy retaliated with a Tomahawk cruise missile attack against a Syrian airfield, that was coordinated with Russian military forces backing the Assad government.

Immediately after the White House issued its warning to the Assad regime on Monday, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley tweeted: "Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people".

September 27, 2013: The U.N. Security Council orders Syria to account for and destroy its chemical weapons stockpile, following a surprise agreement between Washington and Moscow that averts USA strikes.

In Moscow Tuesday, a senior Russian lawmaker dismissed the warning as "provocation".

Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said the statement was spurred by satellite imagery that found a plane - the same that is believed to have carried out chemical attacks in the past - parked less than 30 meters from the bunker where the chemical weapons are thought to be stored. Syria denied it carried out the attack. It marked the first time the US has attacked Syrian forces in the six-year civil war.

The officials weren't authorized to discuss national security planning publicly and requested anonymity.

Jamil Saleh, the commander of the rebel Jaysh al-Ezzah faction, on Tuesday called for renewed airstrikes on the Shayrat Air Base in central Syria, where the United States alleges the government is preparing another chemical attack.

In the photos, Assad can be seen shaking hands with Russian military staffers and climbing into a Russian fighter jet.

Zarif's remarks follow Monday's White House warning that Syrian President Bashar Assad and his military would "pay a heavy price" if they go ahead with the attack.

Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program on Tuesday when asked about the White House statement that "candidate Trump said he would be unpredictable in foreign affairs, and President Trump has certainly delivered on that".

The White House offered no details on what prompted the warning and spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said she had no additional information Monday night. "That suits us and fits into Macron's red line on the use of chemical weapons".

February 28, 2017: Russian Federation, a staunch ally of the Syrian government, and China veto a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing sanctions against the Syrian government for chemical weapons use.

Syrian activists say an airstrike targeting an Islamic State-run jail in eastern Syria has killed at least 42 prisoners. Typically, the State Department, Pentagon and US intelligence agencies would all be consulted before a White House declaration sure to ricochet across foreign capitals.