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World leaders voice support for US-led strikes against Assad

Dozens were killed in a suspected gas attack in Douma, prompting a US response [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 April, 2018

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Western leaders have supported the US, UK and France's decision to strike against the Assad regime in response to a suspected chemical attack last week that left dozens dead.

World leaders have welcomed a wave of punitive strikes by the US, UK and France against Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime on Saturday in response to alleged chemical weapons attacks that President Donald Trump branded the "crimes of a monster".

Trump announced the decision in a White House address, taken in defiance of Russia's threat to respond and signalling a possible new chapter in a brutal seven-year-old civil war.

Several consecutive blasts were heard in the Syrian capital Damascus at 4am (1am GMT), followed by the sound of airplanes overhead, AFP's correspondent in the city said.

Smoke could be seen rising from the northern and eastern edges of the capital.

UK

British Prime Minister Theresa May said that the strikes sent a "clear message" against the use of chemical weapons.

"This collective action sends a clear message that the international community will not stand by and tolerate the use of chemical weapons," May told a press conference.

She said that at an emergency cabinet meeting in London on Thursday "we agreed that it was both right and legal to take military action" after hearing legal advice.

"I believe that the action taken will have significantly degraded the Syrian regime's ability to use chemical weapons," she said.

"While the full assessment of the strike is ongoing, we are confident of its success," she added.

Four British fighter jets struck a military base near Homs where the UK said Syrian regime forces were holding chemical weapon components.

"We have hit a specific and limited set of targets," she said.

Germany

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday the air strikes against the Syrian regime were "necessary and appropriate" after the suspected chemical weapons attacks that killed dozens in Douma.

"We support the fact that our US, British and French allies... assumed their responsibilities. The military intervention was necessary and appropriate," Merkel said in a statement.

The chancellor on Thursday had ruled out Germany joining any military action against Syria.

Canada

Canada has also condemned "in the strongest possible terms" the chemical attack, and while ruling out participation in the strikes, has supported the decision by allies to take action against the Syrian regime.

"Canada condemns in the strongest possible terms the use of chemical weapons in last week's attack in eastern Ghouta, Syria," said Canadian President Justin Trudeau, in a statement issued from Peru, where he is attending the Summit of the Americas.

"Canada supports the decision by the United States, the United Kingdom, and France to take action to degrade the Assad regime's ability to launch chemical weapons attacks against its own people.

"We will continue to work with our international partners to further investigate the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Those responsible must be brought to justice."

France

France's Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Driane described the joint military operation in Syria as "legitimate, limited and proportionate".

Russia was reportedly warned ahead of the joint military attacks on Syria said France's defence minister.

Israel

Israel said that Trump had made clear last year that the use of chemical weapons was a red line, and that Syria's "murderous actions" had put it in danger.

In a statement, an official said that "Syria continues to carry out murderous actions and be a base for these actions and others, including Iran's, that put its territory, forces and leadership in peril".

Australia

Australia, while not part of the coalition, also issued a statement in support of the strikes.

Malcolm Turnbull, the prime minister, said in a statement jointly issued with the foreign and defence ministers: "The use of chemical weapons by anyone, anywhere, under any circumstances is illegal and utterly reprehensible.

"The Assad regime must not be allowed to commit such crimes with impunity."

Mr Turnbull said the strikes were "a calibrated, proportionate and targeted response".

"They send an unequivocal message to the Assad regime and its backers, Russia and Iran, that the use of chemical weapons will not be tolerated."

Turkey

Despite earlier reservations about possible US-led strikes on Syria, Ankara has come out and supported its NATO allies.

"We welcome this operation which has eased humanity's conscience in the face of the attack in Douma, largely suspected to have been carried out by the regime," the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.

It accused Damascus of carrying out "crimes against humanity and war crimes" during Syria's seven-year civil war. 

Qatar

Qatar became the first Gulf state to speak out in favour of the strikes.

"The State of Qatar expressed its support for the US, British and French military operations against specific military targets used by the Syrian regime in launching attacks on innocent civilians," the ministry of foreign affairs said in a statement.

"The continued use by the Syrian regime of chemical and indiscriminate weapons against the civilians, and its disregard for the humanitarian and legal consequences of such crimes, requires immediate action by the international community to protect the Syrian people and to strip the regime of internationally prohibited weapons."

European Union

European Council President Donald Tusk said Saturday the European Union stood by the air strikes.

"Strikes by US, France and UK make it clear that Syrian regime together with Russia and Iran cannot continue this human tragedy, at least not without cost. The EU will stand with our allies on the side of justice," Tusk said in a Twitter message.

The UN

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Saturday called for restraint and for countries to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation.

Guterres delayed a planned trip to Saudi Arabia to deal with the aftermath of the military action.

"I urge all member states to show restraint in these dangerous circumstances and to avoid any acts that could escalate the situation and worsen the suffering of the Syrian people," Guterres said in a statement.

"Any use of chemical weapons is abhorrent. The suffering it causes is horrendous," Guterres said.

The UN chief added it was important to act in line with the UN charter and international law and urged the Security Council to agree on establishing an inquiry that would identify the perpetrators of chemical attacks.

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