United States President Donald Trump is still meeting with top officials at the White House to consider a military response to the alleged Syrian chemical weapons attack, with multiple reports citing division between aides.
The U.S. president has reportedly clashed with his defense secretary, James Mattis, who has called for a limited strike while Mr. Trump wants a larger attack, while the national security advisors meet for the fourth time this week.
Trump is set to give a statement later in the evening, BBC News reporter Jon Sopel tweeted just past 7:30 p.m. ET, however, a senior White House official told Steve Herman of The Voice of America that there will be no address.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was rushed back to his hotel in an unplanned move, reporters with him in Peru’s Lima reported.
Both France and the United Kingdom are dedicated to working with Washington on a response to the chemical strike that the World Health Organization said earlier this week affected some 500 people in Syria’s Douma.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday the alleged chemical attack, which is set to be investigated by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on Saturday, was staged by a foreign actor.
Russia’s military said that it found Britain had carried out the April 7 chemical attack, but the U.S. and France say that they have proof that it was the Syrian regime who carried out the assault.
The Russian envoy to the United Nations, Vassily Nebenzia, told reporters later on Friday that Moscow has proof that that the alleged chemical attack was staged with video evidence it “would be willing to provide to the general public to see”.
Mr. Vassily has warned against U.S. aggression in Syria over concerns of a confrontation and would not “exclude war” between the two superpowers.
The United States and France say they have proof the purported chemical strike on Douma by the Syrian government did occur and have threatened military retaliation, along with the United Kingdom.
Moscow, a staunch ally of Syrian President Basher al-Assad, has warned that allied strikes could result in a confrontation.
Russian aircraft, equipment and soldiers are deployed at several Syrian regime military facilities in support of Damascus, and reports from the Middle East say that Mr. Assad is integrating its military equipment with Russian forces in an attempt to avoid being hit.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the Middle East is “in chaos” and the Cold War is “back with a vengeance”.
Mr. Guterres was speaking to a special meeting of the UN Security Council on Friday, called by Russia.
Independent chemical weapons inspectors are expected to arrive in the area of the alleged attack on Saturday.
More details to follow. Image of Russian airforce from previous files.