Mattis says Syria's government taking US threat seriously

Syria denies US allegations of coming chemical attack

A senior US official told VOA the White House statement was prompted not only by fears a strike would lead to mass civilian casualties, but that a chemical attack might also be used to target rebel allies of the U.S.in eastern Syria.

The White House said that if Mr Assad conducted another chemical weapons attack, "he and his military will pay a heavy price".

The United States says it has detected potential preparations for a chemical attack at Syria's Shayrat airfield, which was used in April to launch a chemical attack that killed more than 80 people in Khan Sheikhoun.

Late on Monday, the White House warned that Assad would pay a "heavy price" for another attack.

A White House official said Tuesday that relevant agencies, including the Pentagon, the State Department, the CIA, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, had been involved in issuing the statement.

Macron appears to be broadly aligning his foreign policy with the USA priorities of tackling terrorism while seeking better ties with Russian Federation, which he considers a long-term partner rather than a direct threat to Europe.

Trump ordered the strike on the Shayrat airfield in Syria in April in reaction to what Washington said was a poison gas attack by Assad's government that killed 87 people in rebel-held territory.

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According to a USA intelligence official who preferred to be anonymous, the warning was issued amid new reports that there was abnormal activity that might be connected with preparations for a chemical launch. Now, facilities and aircraft at this Syrian base in that hangar were all linked to chemical weapons before.

"Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin "deems unacceptable" threats posed to the "legitimate leadership" of Syria".

Syria's ally Russian Federation also dismissed the White House claim, saying "such threats to Syria's legitimate leaders are unacceptable".

The US warning that Syria may be preparing another chemical weapons attack was based on suspect activity at the launch site of the regime's apparent chemical strike in April, the Pentagon said on Tuesday. USA officials say Assad never fulfilled the demand of Obama's deal with Russian Federation, keeping control of some stockpiles. "I think that's morally arbitrary and strategically useless". That's a more complex target, I'm told.

Assad, meanwhile, is touring Syria. But the United States priority has and continues to be to defeat ISIS. And it raised some questions about what the US could do if such an attack happens again. One factor U.S. intelligence is trying to determine is the role the Russians are playing in this effort - chemical weapons use has been condemned by the Kremlin, but if Assad proceeds, it may demonstrate he is trying to publicly show independence from Moscow, officials say.

Assad said in an interview with the AFP news agency earlier this year that the alleged April attack was "100 percent fabrication" used to justify a usa air strike. There is one major difference: Whereas Obama backed down from a threat to use force after a 2013 attack, opting instead for a diplomatic plan to remove Syria's chemical weapons arsenal, Trump has proven his willingness to authorize military force.

But Russia, the Syrian government's main backer, said the USA assertions that Assad's forces may have been planning a chemical attack complicated peace talks on ending Syria's six-year-old civil war.

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