Gas attack a 'fabrication' - Syria's Assad

Khalil Hamra | AP

Khalil Hamra | AP

Putin has condemned the US military assault on a Syrian airfield, saying that the move represents an aggression against a sovereign state in violation of global law under a far-fetched pretext.

"U.S. and Russian interests, whether in Syria, toward North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, human rights, etc. are far too different despite President Trump's earlier interest in an understanding", White said. But he clearly wasn't counting on it.

But Assad said evidence came only from "a branch of Al-Qaeda", referring to a former jihadist affiliate that is among the groups that control Idlib province, where Khan Sheikhun is located. "It may be just the opposite".

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson look at each other as they shake hands after the news conference following their talks in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, April 12, 2017.

The powers are at odds over the fate of Moscow's longtime ally President Bashar al-Assad, a rift exacerbated after an alleged Syrian chemical attack last week that triggered a punitive United States missile strike.

Stoltenberg said he had an excellent and productive meeting in the Oval Office with Trump.

Only weeks ago, it appeared that Trump, who lavishly praised Putin throughout the campaign, was poised for a potentially historic rapprochement with Russian Federation. Russian Federation says rebels were responsible for whatever chemical agent was used, which the Trump administration calls a disinformation campaign.

The polarised positions were evident too at the UN Security Council on Wednesday, when Russian Federation vetoed a Western-drafted resolution that would have required Syrian cooperation in an investigation into the suspected chemical attack. -Russian air safety agreement over Syria which Moscow suspended after the USA missile strikes. In Moscow, Secretary Tillerson again criticized Russia's intervention in Ukraine, which triggered Western sanctions.

The tense back-and-forth over last week's deadly chemical attack in Syria has added to the strain.

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Trump's administration initially took a hands-off approach to Syria, with Assad raising the possibility the new United States president could even be a "natural ally".

Russia's Safronkov called the US strikes on a Syrian air base in retaliation for the Khan Sheikhoun a provocation, but Delattre said they were "a legitimate response to a mass crime which could not go unpunished".

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov blasted USA claims that it has "irrefutable evidence" of election interference. "They were there. So we'll find out", Donald Trump said. "Right now they don't".

But he insisted his forces were unaffected by the USA strike.

Tillerson, visiting Moscow on Wednesday, addressed the issue of the chemical weapons attack but he stopped short of calling it a war crime.

Still, Tillerson sought to stress the positives from his meetings.

Since breaking out with mass protests in March 2011, Syria's conflict has spiralled into a devastating civil war that has left more than 320,000 people dead and forced millions from their homes.

But such hopes appeared optimistic as the diplomats outlined their sharply diverging views on Syria.

There were only a handful of issues Tillerson and Lavrov said they broadly agreed on - that the Korean peninsula should be denuclearized, Syria should be "unified and stable" after the Islamic State is defeated, and that there should be more communication between USA and Russian diplomats and militaries.

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