Inspectors barred from Syrian chemical attack site as Russian Federation accused of tampering

“Furthermore, there were clearly attempts to block any proper investigation, as we saw with the Russian veto at the United Nations earlier in the week”.

Haley said the joint military strike “put a heavy blow into their chemical weapons program, setting them back years” and reiterated that if Assad uses poison gas again, “the United States is locked and loaded”.

Trump’s letter to congressional leaders cited the rationale he gave publicly Friday night when he announced that the USA and allies Britain and France were firing missiles into Syria in response to an alleged poison gas attack on the moderate opposition near Damascus the previous week.

He said the mission was “so perfectly carried out, with such prescion, that the only way the Fake News Media could demean was by my use of the term ‘Mission Accomplished’”.

What is happening in Syria?

Mr Ryabkov said: “As far as I understand what is hampering a speedy resolution of this problem is the consequences of the illegal, unlawful military action that Great Britain and other countries conducted on Saturday”.

President Donald Trump declared “Mission Accomplished” for a USA -led allied missile attack on Syria’s chemical weapons program, but the Pentagon said the pummeling of three chemical-related facilities left enough others intact to enable the Assad government to use banned weapons against civilians if it chooses.

Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu said Syrian and Russian officials cited “pending security issues” in keeping its inspectors from reaching Douma. A unusual smell lingered, nine days after the attack.

But in an interview for BBC’s Hardtalk, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: “I can guarantee that Russia has not tampered with the site”.

“We will work calmly, methodically and professionally, using all opportunities to remove the situation from its current extremely risky political peak”.

The photographs show the three sites targetted in Saturday’s airstrikes before and after they were decimated by US, US and French missiles.

Damascus and its ally Moscow say the allegations of a chemical attack are “fabrications”.

In a statement on Saturday, he reiterated the Russian view that an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma that killed dozens of civilians was fake: “Russian military experts, having visited the place of the alleged incident, did not find any traces of the use of chlorine or other poisonous substances”.

The team will also have to deal with the risk that evidence may have been removed from the site, which lies in an area that has been controlled by Russian military police and Syrian forces over the past week.

Two bombs filled with chemicals were reportedly dropped several hours apart on the town.

As the on-the-ground investigation gets under way, the fallout from the US-led response continued to reverberate, with French President Emmanuel Macron claiming to have persuaded US President Donald Trump to keep his troops in Syria. Several said a odd smell started spreading and people screamed, “It’s chlorine!”

“God, Syria and Bashar – nothing more”, protesters chanted.

Before and after satellite pictures have revealed the damage of Saturday’s US, French and British strikes that were meant to punish Syria for an alleged chemical weapons attack.

As his speech came to a close, the first reports of explosions in Damascus began to emerge.

Peter Wilson, the UK’s OPCW envoy, has told the watchdog body that failure to act in Syria will cause “further barbaric use of chemical weapons”. Neither of the missiles appeared in the zone of responsibility of Russian air defense systems in Tartus and Hmeymim.

One of the three sites hit was the Barzeh complex, which the United States says was a centre for development, production and testing of chemical and biological weapons, although Syria denies this.

SIMON DAWSON