Trump vows ‘forceful’ response after Syria chemical attack

Washington, Moscow clash in emergency UN Security Council meeting over possible US military action

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump is poised to decide on possible military action against the Syrian regime.

He has vowed to respond "forcefully" to the latest alleged chemical atrocity in the country's bloody civil war despite strong warnings from Damascus-ally Russia.

The US, backed by Britain and France, has said it is ready to act with or without support from the United Nations, where the Security Council was to vote on rival US and Russian proposals to probe chemical attacks in Syria.

Mr Trump met his cabinet and then dined with top generals on Monday, telling reporters "we have a lot of options militarily and we'll be letting you know pretty soon."

Washington and Moscow set out starkly different positions at a stormy emergency session yesterday at the UN Security Council, where Russia's ambassador Vassily Nebenzia warned that the possibility of US military action was "very, very dangerous".

Mr Nebenzia rejected a US call for the world body to set up a probe to identify the perpetrators of what rescuers called a "poisonous chlorine gas attack" late on Saturday in the enclave of Douma, near Damascus.

But US Ambassador Nikki Haley said the "world must see justice done".

"History will record this as the moment when the Security Council either discharged its duty or demonstrated its utter and complete failure to protect the people of Syria," Ms Haley declared.

Mr Trump slammed the "horrible attack" and vowed to respond "forcefully".

Rescuers in Douma say more than 40 people died after the suspected poison gas attack in the last rebel-held pocket of the one-time opposition stronghold of Eastern Ghouta.

France warned it would retaliate against the Assad regime if evidence emerges that it was behind the attack.

"If the red line has been crossed, there will be a response," government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said. - AFP