Chemical weapons use in Syria 'simply inexcusable': Mattis

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Defense Secretary Mattis told the Congress that the United States is committed to ending Syria civil war through Geneva process, blames Russian Federation for being complicit in Syrian regime's retention of chemical weapons.

Syria destroyed its chemical weapons stockpile in 2013 in a deal brokered by Russian Federation and the United States in exchange for the latter's agreement not to attack the Middle Eastern country.

"I believe there was a chemical attack and we are looking for the actual evidence", Mattis told a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, warning one of his top concerns about any USA military strike was preventing an "out-of-control" escalation in that country's war, in which Russia, Iran, Turkey and others have taken sides.

"As each day goes by - as you know, it is a non-persistent gas - so it becomes more and more hard to confirm it", Mattis told the lawmakers. On Thursday, however, he tweeted: "Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. We're trying to stop the murder of innocent people, but on a strategic level it's how do we keep this from escalating out of control, if, if you get my drift on that".

At the White House President Trump said he has been in and out of meetings all day about the situation in Syria.

The United States last April launched 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian airfield in response to a similar chemical attack by the government that killed dozens of civilians.

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Decisions will be made "fairly soon", Trump said, adding: "It's too bad that the world puts us in a position like that".

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis testifies to the House Armed Services Committee on "The FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Department of Defense" on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 12, 2018. "It's got to end and our strategy remains the same as a year ago, to drive this to a UN-brokered peace, but at the same time keep our foot on the neck of ISIS until we suffocate it".

Mattis insisted that Trump has not yet made a decision to strike Syria, after the president earlier had tweeted that action "could be very soon or not so soon at all!" "Our strategy is to engage by, with and through allies in all things we do".

Mattis said the United States has yet to confirm details of the attack through global investigators. "We have the proof that chemical weapons - at least chlorine gas - were used by Assad's regime", Macron told France's TF1 television.

Russian Federation on Thursday warned the U.S.to avoid any steps that could destabilize the situation there. On Thursday, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said it would have a team of investigators in Syria by Saturday.

Several lawmakers grilled the Pentagon chief on the legal authorities the military has for action in Syria beyond the remit of its current mission, which is to work to destroy the Daesh.

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