The Latest: Assad says Western threats based on ‘lies’

The Latest: Assad says Western threats based on 'lies'
The Associated Press

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the Syrian conflict (all times local):

1:45 p.m.

Syrian President Bashar Assad says Western threats to strike his country after a suspected chemical attack are based on “lies” and seek to undermine his forces’ recent advances near Damascus.

The U.S. and its allies threatened military action after an alleged gas attack by government forces over the weekend that Syrian opposition activists and medics say killed more than 40 people. The Syrian government has denied the allegations.

Assad said Thursday that Western countries were lashing out after they lost their “bet” on opposition forces in the eastern Ghouta suburbs of the capital. Russia, a key ally of Assad, says government forces have taken full control of the town of Douma, the last rebel holdout in the region and the scene of Saturday’s alleged attack.

Assad says the Western threats endanger international peace and security, and that military action would only contribute to the “further destabilization” of the region.

Assad spoke during a meeting with Ali Akbar Velayati, an aide to Iran’s supreme leader.

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12:20 p.m.

Kuwait’s national carrier says it is suspending flights to Lebanon in line with security warnings from airline authorities concerning a possible strike on neighboring Syria.

Kuwait Airways released the statement overnight, saying flights to Beirut would be suspended from Thursday until further notice.

A day earlier, European airspace authorities warned aircraft to be careful over the next few days when flying close to Syria because of the possibility of air or missile strikes into the country.

The U.S. and its allies have threatened to take military action in response to an alleged chemical attack last weekend. Syrian activists and rescuers say the attack on Douma killed more than 40 people, allegations denied by the government.

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12:15 p.m.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has summoned her Cabinet back from vacation to discuss military action against Syria over an alleged chemical weapons attack.

May has indicated she wants Britain to join in any U.S.-led strikes in response to the suspected attack near Damascus. She has said the use of chemical weapons “cannot go unchallenged.”

The U.S., France and Britain have been consulting about launching a military strike, and President Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that missiles “will be coming.”

Britain’s Ministry of Defense refused to comment on reports that Royal Navy submarines armed with cruise missiles have been dispatched to within range of Syria.

British opposition lawmakers are calling for Parliament to be given a vote on military action. That is not a legal requirement, though it is a convention.

Syrian opposition activists and rescuers say a chemical attack launched by government forces in a rebel-held area near Damascus late Saturday killed more than 40 people, allegations denied by the Syrian government.

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11:50 a.m.

France says it will decide in the coming days whether to launch a military strike over a suspected chemical attack in Syria.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Thursday that President Emmanuel Macron would decide whether to launch an attack over the “non-respect of the international convention against chemical weapons,” which is a “red line” for France.

Speaking to reporters in Romania, Le Drian says: “We are very firm…as the president of the Republic said…. this situation can’t be tolerated.”

Asked about consulting the U.S, which has also threatened military action, Le Drian said “France is autonomous in taking its decisions.”

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday warned of imminent military action in Syria over a suspected poison gas attack near Damascus that Syrian opposition activists and first responders say killed more than 40 people. Syria has denied carrying out such an attack.

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10 a.m.

The Russian military says the Syrian government is now in full control of town on the outskirts of Damascus that was held by the rebels and that was the site of suspected chemical attack over the weekend.

The Defense Ministry said in a statement on Thursday that the situation in the town of Douma, just east of the Syrian capital, is “normalizing.”

More than 13,500 Syrian rebel fighters and their families have left Douma this month under a so-called evacuation deal between the rebels and the Russian military, a top ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.

The Russian ministry says 1,500 left the town in the past 24 hours.

There was no immediate confirmation or indication from Assad’s government that Syrian troops entered Douma on Thursday.

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