WASHINGTON (AP) – The White House has issued a stern warning to Syrian President Bashar Assad, claiming “potential” evidence that Syria was preparing for another chemical weapons attack.
In an ominous statement issued late Monday with no supporting evidence or further explanation, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the U.S. had “identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.”
He said the activities were similar to preparations taken before an April 2017 attack that killed dozens of men, women and children, and warned that if “Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”
The White House offered no details on what prompted the warning.
A Syrian minister has dismissed the White House statement saying Damascus has not and will not use such arms.
Ali Haidar, the minister for national reconciliation, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the White House statement foreshadowed a “diplomatic battle” that would be waged against Syria in the halls of the U.N.
Meanwhile, the Kremlin is dismissing the White House’s warning that the Syrian government is preparing a new chemical attack and that President Bashar Assad and his military “will pay a heavy price” if it goes ahead.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov says that “such threats to Syria’s legitimate leaders are unacceptable.”
Russia is Assad’s key backer and sided with him when he denied responsibility for the chemical weapons attack in April.
Days later, President Donald Trump ordered a retaliatory cruise missile strike on a Syrian government-controlled air base.
Peskov criticized the Trump administration for using the phrase “another chemical weapons attack,” arguing that an independent investigation into the April attack was never conducted despite Russia’s calls for one.