President Donald Trump has promised a decision on possible military action in Syria "fairly soon," saying he is holding meetings with his advisers over the U.S. response to a suspected chemical attack in Syria, as Russia's UN envoy urged Washington and its allies to refrain from military action.
Trump had raised the possibility of an imminent military response to the attack in the Syrian town of Douma on April 7, warning Syria that missiles "will be coming" and criticizing Russia for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!" Trump wrote on April 12.
"In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our 'Thank you America?'" he added.
Later on April 12, he said: "We're having a number of meetings today, we'll see what happens. Now we have to make some...decisions, so they'll be made fairly soon."
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on April 12 said he personally believed an "inexcusable" use of chemical weapons had taken place in Syria. But Mattis, at a congressional hearing on the Pentagon's 2019 budget request, declined to discuss military plans, saying just that legislative leaders would be notified before any attack was undertaken.
Syria and ally Russia deny there was a chemical attack and have warned that any missile strike on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces and facilities would be countered in kind.
Russia's ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, said in New York on April 12 that the "immediate priority is to avert the danger of war."
Asked by reporters if he meant a war between the United States and Russia, Nebenzya said: "We cannot exclude any possibilities unfortunately because we saw messages that are coming from Washington. They were very bellicose."
"The danger of escalation is higher than simply Syria because our militaries are there.... So the situation is very dangerous."
Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, on April 12 urged against "any steps which could lead to an escalation of tensions."
And Assad said any potential action by Western states would “contribute nothing but an increase in instability in the region,” Syrian state television reported.
In an April 11 tweet, Trump told Russia to "get ready" because missiles "will be coming."
In response, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that missiles "should fly toward terrorists, not toward the lawful government" of Syria.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders later said that Trump's national security team had discussed "a number of options" in response to the attack.
"We are still considering a number of those, and a final decision on that front has not been made," she told reporters.
During a television interview, French President Emmanuel Macron said on April 12 that he would decide "in due course" whether to strike Syria.
French and U.S. officials are "working together very closely, and we will have decisions to take, at the time we choose, when we consider it most useful and most effective," Macron said.
"We have proof that last week chemical weapons were used, at least chlorine, and that they were used” by Assad’s forces," he also said.
He did not give the source of his information.
In London, British Prime Minister Theresa May said late on April 11 that all indications pointed to Syrian government responsibility for "a shocking and barbaric act" that could not go unchallenged.