Trump puts off decision on Syria strikes

A bus carrying Jaish al Islam fighters and others on theoutskirts of Damascus on Monday

US officials have been consulting with France, Britain and other allies on a possible joint military operation, but the timing remained in doubt Wednesday.

Cabinet ministers have agreed on a "need to take action" against Syria, following a suspected chemical weapon attack that claimed the lives of dozens of people in the Damascus suburb of Douma. British officials said up to 75 people were killed.

"Syria's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that Trump's threats to attack are "reckless" and endanger global peace and security".

A White House statement released later said the United States is continuing to assess intelligence and is engaged in conversations with its partners and allies. In Thursday's tweet, Trump also suggested he did not get enough credit for U.S. gains against ISIS in the region, asking, "Where is our 'Thank you America?'"

"In the past, Trump has condemned others for forecasting military plans, repeatedly blistering President Barack Obama during the 2016 campaign". And he insisted it remains USA policy not to be involved directly in Syria's civil war. "It is to drive this to a United Nations -brokered peace but, at the same time, keep our foot on the neck of ISIS until we suffocate it", referring to the Islamic State extremist group.

"We have not yet made any decision to launch military attacks into Syria", Mattis told lawmakers on the House Armed Services committee. In another tweet on Thursday, Trump wrote that an attack on Syria "could be very soon or not so soon at all!"

Later Thursday he was noncommittal.

"We're having a number of meetings today, we'll see what happens, we're obviously looking at that very closely", he told lawmakers and governors in the Cabinet Room. A joint military operation, possibly with France rather than the U.S.in the lead, could send a message of worldwide unity about enforcing the prohibitions on chemical weapons.

Syria and Russia have denied using poisonous gas in Douma on April 7, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying that Moscow had "irrefutable" evidence that the attack in Douma was a "staged event".

According to media reports, a Russian official said that Russia is ready to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria by the United States, while the USA side threatened military options at any time. Initial reports indicated the use of chlorine gas, possibly in addition to the nerve agent Sarin.

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Addressing the Security Council, Haley laid out Washington's case for resorting to force, challenging Russia's claim that military action would be in violation of worldwide law.

The BBC said May was ready to give the go-ahead for Britain to take part in action led by the USA without seeking prior approval from parliament, and the Financial Times said the cabinet had agreed to this.

Peskov wouldn't say if Moscow could use a Russia-U.S. military hotline to avoid casualties in a case of a U.S. blow, saying only that "the hotline exists and has remained active".

"On a strategic level, it's how do we keep this from escalating out of control, if you get my drift on that", he said.

"Until we have a more long-term strategy, until we have some idea where we're going in Syria and the Middle East, it seems unwise, to me, to start launching missiles", said Smith, D-Wash. "Not to react is to prove to the rest of the world that what we say does not matter".

The Assad regime is known to have stocks of the nerve agent sarin, and has previously used a mixture of chlorine and sarin in attacks, say USA officials.

The Kremlin was speaking as British ministers planned to gather to discuss whether to join the United States and France in a possible military attack on Syria that threatens to bring Western and Russian forces into direct confrontation.

Haley made clear that the US administration was taking time to assess the full implications of military strikes on Syria after Russia warned that it could lead to a risky US-Russian war.

Moisi stressed the "risk of escalation" of the conflict amid increasing concerns about a U.S. -Russia proxy war.

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