May mulls Syria action despite cautious mood in UK

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President Trump has expressed outrage over the deadly assault in the suburb, Douma, and threatened a military response.

Cabinet ministers have agreed on a "need to take action" against Syria, following a suspected chemical weapon attack that claimed the lives of dozens of people in the Damascus suburb of Douma.

But that doesn't mean that is something Trump is willing bet his presidency on, which could result in a direct military clash with Russian Federation.

"We have not yet made any decision to launch military attacks into Syria", Mattis told lawmakers on the House Armed Services committee.

In an early morning tweet and later in comments at the White House, Trump attempted to cloud the timing of military action - a day after indicating it was imminent - and said a final decision had not yet been made.

At stake in Syria is the potential for confrontation, if not outright conflict, between the US and Russian Federation, former Cold War foes whose relations have deteriorated in recent years over Moscow's intervention in Ukraine, its interference in the 2016 USA presidential election and, most recently, its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Half a world away in New York, Russia's United Nations ambassador warned the priority in Syria was to avert US-led strikes that could lead to a risky confrontation between the world's two preeminent nuclear powers. He also said the proof shows it was carried out by the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

The BBC said May was ready to give the go-ahead for Britain to take part in action led by the USA without seeking prior approval from parliament, and the Financial Times said the cabinet had agreed to this.

The samples suggested the presence of both chlorine gas and an unnamed nerve agent, two officials said. Asked if France is planning to participate in retaliatory attacks on Syria, he was noncommittal.

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A UN-led panel has determined that Assad's forces had used sarin in the town of Khan Sheikhun last yaer and chlorine in at least three attacks on villages in 2014 and 2015.

"There has been no decision to take military action at this point".

He said the United States is trying to get an inspection team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to the site of the alleged attack.

Asked about the risks of USA military retaliation, Mattis cited two concerns, starting with avoiding civilian casualties.

May and Trump had also "agreed it was vital that the use of chemical weapons did not go unchallenged, and on the need to deter the further use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. Not to react is to prove to the rest of the world that what we say does not matter".

US Ambassador Nikki Haley said no decision had been taken to launch strikes and stressed Washington was taking time to assess the implications of possible military action after Russia warned it could lead to a unsafe US-Russian war.

At the House hearing, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, disputed Trump's legal authority to act without congressional authority and suggested a US strike would lead to war with Russian Federation.

"And, I would simply say to the Prime Minister: be very careful, because you do not have a majority in Parliament".

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