White House says Assad may be preparing chemical attack

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy greets Syria's President Bashar al Assad at the Elysee Palace in Paris

The U.S. identified "potential preparations" for the use of chemical weapons that appear similar to the April 4 attack that prompted President Donald Trump to order a cruise-missile strike against Syrian military targets on April 6, according to a statement from the office of press secretary Sean Spicer.

Assad denied responsibility for April attack.

Sky News US Correspondent Cordelia Lynch said: "This is an ominous statement by the White House but it provides little detail".

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be preparing a chemical weapons attack that would result in the "mass murder" of civilians, the White House said Monday, warning the regime would pay a "heavy price" if it goes ahead.

Trump said at the time that the Khan Sheikhoun attack crossed "many, many lines", and called on "all civilized nations" to join the U.S.in seeking an end to the carnage in Syria. The assessment is partly based on the locations, security surrounding the suspect sites and other information which has not been revealed. An Israeli military assessment also found that Assad's regime was still in possession of "a few tons" of chemical weapons.




A non-governmental source with close ties to the White House said the administration had received intelligence that the Syrians were mixing precursor chemicals for a possible sarin gas attack in either the east or south of the country, where government troops and their proxies have faced recent setbacks.

The strike put Washington in confrontation with Russian Federation, which has backed Assad with air strikes in his six-year civil war with rebels.

The US has taken a series of actions over the past three months demonstrating its willingness to carry out strikes, mostly in self-defence, against Syrian government forces and their backers, including Iran.

USA officials called the April intervention a "one-off" move meant to deter future chemical attacks and not an expansion of the US role in Syria.

The U.S. military's stated objective in Syria is to defeat Islamic State, but has stepped up attacks on the Syrian government in recent months as it continues to support anti-government rebels.

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