Russian Federation 'complicit' in Syrian regime's retention of chemical weapons: Mattis

US 'still assessing the intelligence' on alleged Syrian chemical attack, defense secretary says

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis signaled Thursday that the US was prepared to wait for definitive proof that Syria carried out a chemical attack before launching an attack, but stressed the moral imperative for a USA response.

Speaking at a House Armed Services Committee hearing, Mattis made the comments as justification for last year's US missile strikes on Syria but did not suggest what military action the administration might take in Syria in the coming days.

Mattis insisted that Trump has not yet made a decision to strike Syria, after the president earlier had tweeted that action "could be very soon or not so soon at all!"

Mattis also said the use of chemical weapons in Syria is "simply inexcusable", after a suspected poison gas attack in eastern Ghouta's Douma on Saturday.

The U.S. also wants to avoid causing more civilian deaths "and do everything humanly possible to avoid that", Mattis said.

"We have proof that last week, 10 days ago even, chemical weapons were used - at least chlorine - and that they were used by the regime of Bashar al-Assad", Mr. Macron said in an interview on TF1, a French television station.

"I believe there was a chemical attack and we are looking for the actual evidence", Mattis told lawmakers, adding he wanted inspectors in Syria "probably within the week".

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"I've never seen refuges as traumatized as coming out of Syria".

"As each day goes by - as you know, it is a non-persistent gas - so it becomes more and more hard to confirm it", Mattis told the lawmakers. "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", Mattis said.

President Trump suggested Monday he had little doubt that Syria was to blame, but neither he nor other administration officials have produced hard evidence. "Could be very soon or not so soon at all!" His comments came before he went to the White House Wednesday afternoon for a meeting on Syria.

"We are trying to stop the murder of innocent people, how do we keep this from escalating out of control", he told Tsongas.

Mattis said a strike on the Assad regime in Syria would be authorized under Constitutional powers granted to the president, and would not require Congressional permission. "Get ready Russian Federation, because they will be coming, nice and new and 'smart!' You shouldn't be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!" "We're still working on this", he said.

"We have not yet made any decision to launch military attacks into Syria", Mattis told Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii.

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