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Chemical experts Syria mission in limbo

Chemical experts Syria mission in limbo

Photo Nikki R. Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, had said the administration would impose sanctions on Russian companies found to be assisting Syria's chemical weapons program, a position later contradicted by the White House.

"It is highly likely that evidence and essential elements disappear from the site, which is completely controlled by the Russian and Syrian armies", the French foreign ministry said.

Damascus and Moscow have both denied using poison gas and have broadcast statements from hospital workers in Douma - which medical aid groups operating in rebel areas have dismissed as propaganda - saying that no chemical attack took place.

On the evening of 13 April 2018, the United States and European allies launched airstrikes against Syrian research, storage, and military targets as part of an operation intended by President Donald Trump to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for a suspected chemical attack near Damascus that reportedly killed more than 40 people.

Big explosions were heard overnight near Shayrat air base, southeast of Homs city, and near Damascus where two other air bases are located, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

Both the United States and Israel appeared to deny involvement in the overnight incident, which would have been the third time that Homs province was bombed in just over a week.

Quoting an unnamed military official, state TV said air defences fired a number of missiles due to a "false alarm", but gave no more information.

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A boy stands next to the remains of a bomb in Douma on Monday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the military strikes violated the U.N. Charter and that if they continue, "it will inevitably entail chaos in global relations", according to a Kremlin statement on Sunday.

USA and British officials have accused Russian units in Duma of trying to hide or tamper with evidence of the chemical attack, a claim Moscow denies. Several said a unusual smell started spreading and people screamed, "It's chlorine!"

Experts arrived in Damascus on Saturday, but they have been unable to visit the nearby town of Douma because of "security issues" cited by Russian Federation.

The lack of access to Douma has left unanswered questions about the attack earlier this month.

Earlier Monday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the inspectors could not go to the site because they needed approval from the U.N. Department for Safety and Security. A unusual smell lingered, nine days after the attack. Her office said she planned to tell them the strikes were "in Britain's national interest" and were carried out to stop further suffering from chemical weapons attacks.

Separately, the AP spoke to a medic who was among those who later were evacuated to northern Syria. He said he tried to enter the shelter but was overcome by a strong smell of chlorine and his comrades pulled him out.