US to ‘respond’ to Syria attack; Russia warns of ‘repercussions’
An escalating war of words has broken out between Moscow and Washington over a suspected chemical attack in a Syrian rebel-held town, raising international tensions amid calls for action at an urgent United Nations Security Council meeting.
The US, Britain, France and six other countries requested Monday's emergency session after rescue teams and medics said a "poisonous chlorine gas attack" in Douma on Saturday killed dozens of people, including many children and women.
The Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad and its ally Russia have called the allegations "fabrications".
As the fallout continued on Monday, Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, told the urgent meeting that Washington was ready to "respond" to the attack regardless of whether the Security Council acted or not.
"We have reached the moment when the world must see justice done," Haley said, striking a sombre and threatening tone.
"History will record this as the moment when the Security Council either discharged its duty or demonstrated its utter and complete failure to protect the people of Syria," she added. "Either way, the United States will respond."
Moments earlier, Vassily Nebenzia, Haley's counterpart, had called the chemical attack allegations "fake news" and said Russia was ready to fly weapons' inspectors to the site to see for themselves.
Warning that any military action against Syria's government could have "grave repercussions", the Russian ambassador also accused US, France and Britain of "hawkish rhetoric" and "boorishness against my country", adding that their lack of a clear strategy for Syria was "appalling".