Trump on Syria attack: ‘Very soon or not so soon at all!’
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Trump on Syria attack: ‘Very soon or not so soon at all!’

US president seems to walk back imminence of threatened strike, as Assad warns Western action would 'further destabilize' region

US President Donald Trump, right, sitting next to Vice President Mike Pence, speaks in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 9, 2018, at the start of a meeting with military leaders. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
US President Donald Trump, right, sitting next to Vice President Mike Pence, speaks in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, April 9, 2018, at the start of a meeting with military leaders. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

US President Donald Trump was evasive Thursday about when the United States might attack Syria in retaliation for a chemical weapons assault, saying it could be “very soon or not so soon at all!”

A day after warning starkly that “missiles will be coming,” Trump in another early morning tweet storm said: “Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all!”

He added: “In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our “Thank you America?”

Earlier in the week, US officials said the US, France and Britain were in extensive consultations about launching a military strike as early as the end of this week.

Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar Assad warned Thursday that threats of Western military action in response to the alleged chemical attack would only lead to further chaos in the region.

“With every victory on the ground, some Western countries raise their voices and intensify their activities in an effort to change the trajectory of events,” said Assad.

Syrian President Bashar Assad addresses the newly-elected parliament in Damascus, Syria, on June 7, 2016. (SANA, the Syrian official news agency, via AP)

“These voices, and any possible actions, will only contribute to further destabilization in the region,” he said in comments posted on the Syrian presidency’s social media accounts.

Assad spoke during a meeting with Ali Akbar Velayati, foreign policy adviser to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and other officials.

Assad and Velayati criticized Western threats to carry out strikes on Syria in response to the alleged use of toxic weapons over the weekend, the presidency said.

“The threats of some Western countries to attack Syria is based on lies that these countries fabricated along with terrorist organizations,” Assad’s office said.

Syrian troops have braced for Western strikes across the country, hiding assets and deserting key buildings.

Trump and other Western leaders have vowed a quick and forceful response to Saturday’s alleged gas attack, which rescue workers say killed more than 40 people.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May gives a press conference with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven following their talks at Rosenbad, Stockholm, Sweden, April 9, 2018. (Jonas Ekstromer/TT News Agency via AP)

British Prime Minister Theresa May has called an emergency cabinet meeting for Thursday and The Telegraph newspaper reported that she already ordered British submarines to move within missile range of the country, while French President Emmanuel Macron is to decide on a response in the coming days, having insisted he does “not want an escalation” and that any response would focus on Syria’s chemical capabilities, not on allies of the regime.

As it looked to head off the threat of Western strikes, Syria said it had invited the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which has blamed the regime for previous attacks, to visit the site.

The OPCW said it would “shortly” deploy a fact-finding team to Douma for an investigation, but US officials said they were working from their own information and would not necessarily hold back.

Damascus agreed to hand over its chemical arsenal in 2013, narrowly avoiding American and French airstrikes in retaliation for a suspected sarin attack. That incident, which killed hundreds, also took place in Eastern Ghouta.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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