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Putin claims US planning 'further provocations' in Syria

SECURITY
Putin claims US planning 'further provocations' in Syria

US president Donald Trump (left) and Russian president Vladimir Putin (right)

Photo :AFP/Don Emmert and Natalia Kolesnikova

Russia's president Vladimir Putin claimed sensationally on Tuesday that "further provocations" by the United States are being planned in other locations in Syria including its capital.

"We have information that a similar provocation is being prepared in the suburbs of Damascus where they are planning to plant some substance and accuse the Syrian authorities of using chemical weapons," Putin said.

Putin made the incendiary claim when asked whether he expected more US missile strikes on Syria at a joint press conference with Sergio Mattarella during an official visit to Russia by Italy's head of state.

The inflammatory remarks came ahead of a meeting between US secretary of state Rex Tillerson and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow amid mounting tensions over the US missile strikes against a Syrian air base on Friday, days after a suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held town in northern Syria that killed over 80 people.

The US launched cruise missiles against a Syrian air base in Homs province on Friday after a suspected chemical attack that killed over 80 civilians including 20 children in Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province on 4 April.

Putin reaffirmed during talks with Mattarella on Tuesday that Moscow will ask the United Nations to open an investigation into the Khan Sheikhoun attack, which drew widespread international condemnation.

"The use of chemical weapons is banned by the Geneva Conventions and is unacceptable," Mattarella said in remarks after his meeting with Putin.

"We hope that Moscow, like all countries, can use its influence to prevent further attacks taking place," Mattarella went on to say.

Italy considers it of "fundamental" importance to identify the perpetrators of such heinous crimes and "to bring them to justice," Mattarella said.

Damascus and Moscow deny their jets dropped chemicals on Khan Sheikhoun and claim the atrocity occurred when a rebel depot containing chemical weapons was hit during an air strike.

The Syrian and Russian governments have condemned the US attack on Shayrat airfield near Homs, which the Syrian army said killed six people and caused "extensive material damage".

The missile strikes against Shayrat damaged or destroyed 20 percent of Syria's operational aircraft, the US has said.

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