United Nations chief warns against escalation over Syria

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres

Missile strikes of the United States, France and British on Syria have drawn a conflicting response from allies and foes of the Syrian government.

"The United Kingdom, France and the United States acted - not as revenge, not as punishment, not as a symbolic show of force", said U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

"Washington has adopted a categorical policy to unleash a military scenario against Syria", the Russian ambassador to the U.N., Vasilly Nebenzia, told the council. Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Britain had pressured the White Helmets, who act as first responders in rebel-held areas, to fake the suspected chemical attack in the town of Douma.

Ahead of the meeting, Haley sounded a note of caution, saying there should be no rush to launch air strikes even though "at some point you have to do something."You don't rush decisions like this", Haley told reporters".

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia speaks during an emergency Security Council meeting on Syria at U.N. headquarters in New York, April 14, 2018.

Haley said the US was "confident" the strikes "crippled" Syria's chemical weapons program.

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The strikes carried out by the United States, Britain and France were aimed at "degrading the Syrian regime's capability and deterring the use of chemical weapons", she said. USA officials have yet to determine precisely what was used, but suspect that a banned nerve agent like sarin was mixed with chlorine.

"We will not sacrifice the worldwide order we have collectively built to the Russian desire to protect its ally at all costs", said Ambassador Karen Pierce.

The warning from Moscow came as United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that increasing tensions over Syria could lead to "full-blown military escalation".

"I urge the Security Council to assume its responsibilities and fill this gap".

"This is not a threat, this is a promise", Syrian Ambassador Bashar Jaafari told the council.

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