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Putin slams ‘unacceptable’ accusations over alleged chemical attack in Idlib

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with his Uzbek counterpart Shavkat Mirziyoyev (unseen) at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on April 5, 2017. (Photos by AFP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has condemned as unacceptable the “unfounded accusations” about a purported chemical attack in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib earlier this week, calling for an international probe.

During a telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday, “the two sides exchanged views on the chemical incident that took place on April 4,” the Kremlin said in a statement.

Putin “pointed out that it was unacceptable to make groundless accusations against anyone without conducting a detailed and unbiased investigation.”

Earlier on Thursday, Israeli Minister for Military Affairs Avigdor Lieberman told Hebrew-language Yedioth Ahronoth daily that he was sure Syrian government forces were behind the “chemical weapons attack.”

Over 80 people were reportedly killed in the suspected chemical incident in the town of Khan Shaykhun in Idlib province on Tuesday. According to the UN children's fund, at least 27 children were among those killed in the attack.

The United States and its allies have put the blame on the Syrian government.

Russia warns US of 'negative consequences' if it launches Syria offensive

Meanwhile, Russia warned the US that there could be "negative consequences" if Washington takes military action against Syria.

"All responsibility if military action occurs will be on the shoulders of those who initiated such a doubtful tragic enterprise," Russian Ambassador to the UN Vladimir Safronkov told reporters following a closed-door Security Council sessoin on Syria.

The Russian diplomat was reacting to reports that the administration of US President Donald Trump is considering military action against Syria over the Idlib attack.

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Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem has dismissed any accusations that the Syrian army deployed chemical weapons in Idlib.

He told a press conference in Damascus on Thursday that foreign-sponsored Takfiri terrorist groups continue stockpiling chemical weapons in the country’s urban and residential areas.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem gestures as he speaks during a press conference in the capital Damascus on April 6, 2017.

Al-Nusra Front, also known as the Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, Daesh “and other terrorist organizations continue to store chemical weapons in urban and residential areas," Muallem said.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the UN's Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic are both investigating the Khan Shaykhun attack.

Muallem said Syria would provide the OPCW and the UN with “intelligence on the transfer of chemical substances from Iraq into Syria, or from Turkey into Syria.”

He said Damascus needs assurances that any fact-finding mission into the Idlib attack would not be politicized, adding that his country’s past experience with international inquiries had not been "encouraging."

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