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Trump puts off decision on Syria strike

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April 13, 2018

President Donald Trump's held cabinet meetings to decide what action to take over the Syria crisis.

US President Donald Trump has put off a final decision on possible military strikes against Syria after tweeting earlier that they could happen "very soon or not so soon at all."

The White House said he would consult further with allies.

Defence Secretary Jim Mattis has warned such an attack carried the risk of spinning out of control, suggesting caution ahead of a decision on how to respond to an attack against civilians that US officials are increasingly certain involved the use of banned chemical weapons.

"No final decision has been made. We are continuing to assess intelligence and are engaged in conversations with our partners and allies," White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said after Trump met with Mattis and other members of his National Security Council:

Sanders said Trump would speak later with French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

A series of Trump tweets this week initially indicated he was committed to bombing Syria but later suggested he was awaiting further advice and assessment.

"We're looking very, very seriously, very closely at the whole situation," Trump told reporters.

The US, France and Britain have been in extensive consultations about launching a military strike as early as the end of this week, US officials have said.

A joint military operation, possibly with France rather than the US in the lead, could send a message of international unity about enforcing the prohibitions on chemical weapons.

Macron said Thursday that France has proof that the Syrian government launched chlorine gas attacks and said France would not tolerate "regimes that think everything is permitted."

After May met with her Cabinet, a spokesperson said it is highly likely that Syria's President Bashar Assad was responsible for Saturday's attack that killed dozens outside Damascus.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, based in the Netherlands, announced it was sending a fact-finding team to the site of the attack outside Damascus, and it was due to arrive Saturday. It was not clear whether the presence of the investigators could affect the timing of any US military action.

Russian lawmakers have warned the United States that Moscow would view an airstrike on Syria as a war crime and that it could trigger a direct U.S-Russian military clash.

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