Russia: Syria chemical attack 'fabrication' by foreign power

President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting

As the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said its experts were travelling to Syria and would start investigations on Saturday, here is a breakdown of where each country stands on the prospect of retaliatory strikes.

Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the military had "proof that testifies to the direct participation of Britain in the organising of this provocation in Eastern Ghouta". He said Moscow has "irrefutable information that it was a fabrication".

For Mattis' part, he told members of Congress, "I cannot tell you that we have evidence" that the government of Bashar al-Assad was directly involved in the deadly attack, saying there are no United States troops from the ground who could directly confirm the allegations.

"Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova responded to the verbal jousting on Wednesday by saying: "'Smart' missiles must strike terrorists, not the legitimate government that has been fighting global terrorism on its territory for several years".

The United States, Britain and France accuse Syria of violating those commitments by carrying out chemical attacks and failing to fully disclose its stockpile. She said the Douma incident was a "shocking and barbaric act" which killed dozens of innocent people. Under a 2013 agreement for which Russian Federation was a guarantor, Syria was to have eliminated all its chemical weapons, but it has used chlorine and perhaps other chemicals since then.

On Wednesday, Trump had threatened to retaliate against the Russian-backed Syrian regime, posting on social media that "nice, new and "smart" missiles "will be coming".

The assessment about the nature of this April's chemical attack and its likely origin with the Assad regime will be presented to the president, said an official familiar with the intelligence.

"For people in Syria, what matters is that they don't have anything to lose", Mr Hamadmad said.

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Lavrov said Russian Federation expects OPCW team to quickly visit the site.

"We expect the mission to go without any delay to Douma where Russian specialists who examined this place have not found any confirmations of the use of chemical weapons", he said.

Depending on the strength of the strikes, Bashar al-Assad's regime could be deterred from resorting to chemical weapons in the future.

Douma and the sprawling eastern Ghouta region near Damascus had been under rebel control since 2012 and was a thorn in the side of Assad's government, threatening his seat of power with missiles and potential advances for years.

In Washington, U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis told Congress he believed there was a chemical attack in Syria, but added a short while later that the United States had not made any decision to launch military action.

Lavrov said that "intelligence agencies of a state that is now striving to spearhead a Russo-phobic campaign were involved in that fabrication". He didn't elaborate or name the state.

Rep. Adam Smith, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, said he sees no legal justification for a USA strike in Syria, absent explicit authorization by Congress.

Speaking at the United Nations on Friday, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley pushed back against denials by both the Syrian and Russian governments that chemical agents were used in the weekend's attack.

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