Russian President
Vladimir Putin warned on Sunday that further Western attacks on
Syria would bring chaos to world affairs, as Washington prepared
to increase pressure on Russia with new economic sanctions.

In a telephone conversation with his Iranian counterpart,
Hassan Rouhani, Putin and Rouhani agreed that the Western
strikes had damaged the chances of achieving a political
resolution in the seven-year Syria conflict, according to a
Kremlin statement.

“Vladimir Putin, in particular, stressed that if such
actions committed in violation of the UN Charter continue,
then it will inevitably lead to chaos in international
relations,” the Kremlin statement said.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, told
CBS’ “Face the Nation” programme that the United States would
announce new economic sanctions on Monday aimed at companies
“that were dealing with equipment” related to Syrian President
Bashar al-Assad’s alleged chemical weapons use.

On Saturday, the United States, France and Britain launched
105 missiles targeting what the Pentagon said were three
chemical weapons facilities in Syria in retaliation for a
suspected poison gas attack in Douma on April 7.

The Western countries blame Assad for the Douma attack that
killed dozens of people. The Syrian government and its ally
Russia have denied involvement in any such attack.

The bombings marked the biggest intervention by Western
countries against Assad and ally Russia.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday that he had
convinced Trump, who previously said he wanted to take US forces out of Syria, to stay for “the long term”.

The United States, France and Britain have said the missile
strikes were limited to Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities
and not aimed at toppling Assad or intervening in the civil war.
Macron said in an interview broadcast by BFM TV, RMC radio and
Mediapart online news that he had convinced Trump to focus on
the chemical weapons sites.

The White House pushed back against Macron’s comments about
Trump’s intentions for US forces.

“The US mission has not changed – the president has been
clear that he wants US forces to come home as quickly as
possible,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

“We are determined to completely crush ISIS and create the
conditions that will prevent its return.” she said. “In addition
we expect our regional allies and partners to take greater
responsibility both militarily and financially for securing the
region.”

Also read: Syria strike was perfectly executed, says Trump

Responding to Haley’s remarks about the plans for new
sanctions, Evgeny Serebrennikov, deputy head of the defence
committee of Russia’s upper house of parliament, said Moscow was
ready for the penalties, according to RIA news agency.

“They are hard for us, but will do more damage to the USA
and Europe,” RIA quoted Serebrennikov as saying.

In Damascus, Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad,
met inspectors from the global chemical weapons watchdog OPCW
for about three hours in the presence of Russian officers and a
senior Syrian security official.

The inspectors were due to attempt to visit the Douma site.
Moscow condemned the Western states for refusing to wait for the
OPCW’s findings before attacking.

Mekdad declined to comment to reporters waiting outside the
hotel where the meeting took place.

Assad told a group of visiting Russian lawmakers that the
Western missile strikes were an act of aggression, Russian news
agencies reported.

Russian agencies quoted the lawmakers as saying that Assad
was in a “good mood”, had praised the Soviet-era air defence
systems Syria used to repel the Western attacks and had accepted
an invitation to visit Russia at an unspecified time.

Trump had said: “Mission accomplished” on Twitter after the
strikes, although US Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie at
the Pentagon acknowledged elements of the program remained and
he could not guarantee that Syria would be unable to conduct a
chemical attack in the future.

Russian and Iranian military help over the past three years
has allowed Assad to crush the rebel threat to topple him.

Although Israel has at times urged stronger US involvement
against Assad and his Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah
reinforcements in Syria, it voiced backing for Saturday’s air
strikes by Western powers.

The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah said on Sunday that
Western strikes on Syria had failed to achieve anything,
including terrorizing the army, helping insurgents or serving
the interests of Israel.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the US military had kept its
strikes limited because it knew a wider attack would spark
retaliation from Damascus and its allies and inflame the region.

“The American (military) knows well that going towards a
wide confrontation and a big operation against the regime and
the army and the allied forces in Syria could not end, and any
such confrontation would inflame the entire region,” Nasrallah
said.

The heavily armed, Iranian-backed Shi’ite Hezbollah
movement, which fights alongside the Syrian army and is
represented in the Beirut government, has been a vital ally of
Damascus in Syria’s war.

France, the United States and Britain circulated a draft
resolution to the UN Security Council late on Saturday that
aims to establish an independent inquiry into who is responsible
for chemical weapons attacks in Syria. The mechanism would look
at cases where the OPCW fact-finding mission has established
chemical weapons were used or likely used.

Diplomats said negotiations on the draft resolution would
begin on Monday and it was not immediately clear when the United
States, France and Britain wanted to put it to a vote.

Reuters