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Trump muddies Syria threats as Europeans balk at joining campaign

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
(L-R) French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and US President Donald Trump

The US president has refused to act on his ostensibly earnest threats of a militant action against Syria in response to an alleged chemical attack there as major European powers say they will not be joining Washington.

Donald Trump recently issued multiple threats of an imminent military action against Syria over the alleged attack against the town of Douma in the countryside of the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Reporting on Thursday, Italy’s Agenzia Nova said Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni had noted in a series of Syria-related phone talks that Rome would not take part in military action against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.

Also on Thursday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin that “Germany will not take part in military action.”

Trump’s threats likewise prompted warnings of retaliation from Moscow, with Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia saying he “cannot exclude” the possibility of direct Russo-American military confrontation in case the Arab country was attacked.

AFP reported on Friday that Western powers were hesitant whether to launch a wholesale joint offensive in response to the alleged gas attack.

“No final decision has been made," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said after Nebenzia cautioned “the immediate priority is to avert the danger of war.”

Sanders added that Trump would confer with French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis also struck a cautious note, telling lawmakers that the need to “stop the murder of innocent people” had to be weighed up against the risk of things “escalating out of control.” He also said that Washington was committed to an on-again-off-again UN-brokered dialog between the Syrian government and opposition in Geneva.

Despite siding with Trump on the matter, Macron, meanwhile, said France would “in no way allow an escalation.”

Britain has also refused to act on Prime Minister Theresa May’s earlier threat that strikes could begin as early as Thursday.

Following an invitation from Damascus, inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) are expected to arrive in Syria over the weekend to investigate the reported attack.

The Syrian government surrendered its stockpiles of chemical weapons during a process monitored by the OPCW in 2014.

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