Trump condemns “horrific” chemical attack in Syria, signaling changed attitude toward al-Assad

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday condemned the “horrific” chemical attack in Syria, saying it cannot be tolerated.

Speaking at a joint news conference in the White House with visiting King Abdullah II of Jordan, Trump blamed Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad for the Tuesday gas attack in northwestern Syria, in which at least 70 civilians were killed and scores of others were wounded.

“Their deaths was an affront to humanity. These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated,” Trump said.

“The United States stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this horrific attack and all other horrific attacks, for that matter,” Trump added.

In response to a media question whether the attack crossed a red line, Trump said it “crossed many, many lines,” and that his attitude toward al-Assad “has changed very much.”

He did not elaborate, but this could signal his change of mind after recent statements by U.S. officials that the Trump administration’s priority on Syria is no longer on removing al-Assad from power.

The previous Obama administration insisted that al-Assad should play no role in any solution to the Syrian crisis.

Trump’s remarks came after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on Russia and Iran to exercise influence on Syria to prevent further chemical attack in the war-torn country.

Tillerson said in a statement late Tuesday that Russia and Iran should “exercise their influence over the Syrian regime and to guarantee that this sort of horrific attack never happens again.”

Earlier Tuesday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer condemned the gas attack as “heinous actions” carried by the Syrian government, without providing proof.

But the Syrian army on Tuesday refuted the accusations against it as completely baseless, saying it had not used, nor would use such weapons in the future. It also held “terrorist groups” responsible for using chemical weapons.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry also said that the Syrian army doesn’t possess any kind of chemical weapons.

In Moscow, Russian Defense Ministry said Wednesday that the deadly contamination in Syria was caused by the explosion of chemical weapons produced by the rebels.

On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting to discuss the suspected chemical attack in Syria.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday said he was deeply disturbed by reports of alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.

The UN is not currently in a position to independently verify these reports, but it has begun gathering information to confirm the use of chemical weapons, Guterres said in a statement. PNA/Xinhua-northboundasia.com