Activists worry United States airstrikes won't deter Assad: 'Mission not accomplished'

Faisal Mekdad, Syria's deputy foreign minister, said on Monday that his country is "fully ready" to cooperate with the fact-finding mission from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that's in Syria to investigate the alleged chemical attack that triggered USA -led airstrikes.

The inspectors arrived in Damascus on the day of the Western strikes but had not been allowed to enter Douma.

Russian Federation and the Syrian government denied responsibility for the alleged attack, which took place during a government assault on the then rebel-held town.

Until Saturday, Douma was the last rebel-held town near Damascus, and the target of a government offensive in February and March that killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands.

"Most of the forces we've had in Syria up to this point have been to build capacity to fight against the Islamic State, and I don't think they're there yet", he said.

OPCW Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu told a meeting of the organization's Executive Council on Wednesday that the team will not visit Douma until United Nations security experts, who came under fire in the town on Tuesday, deem it safe and only if the team "can have unhindered access to the sites". But three days have passed without a clear indication of when they will be able to enter the attack site.

Nebenzia told the council that not even a day after the airstrikes, the U.S., France and Britain circulated a draft United Nations resolution calling for an urgent resumption of negotiations between the Syrian government and opposition as well as an independent body to assess blame for chemical attacks and humanitarian access throughout Syria.

The suspected April 7 gas attack on Douma, near Damascus, reportedly left more than 40 people dead and was blamed by Western powers on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

The rejection on Tuesday came during the sixth UNSC emergency meeting on Syria since the suspected chemical attack claimed the lives of at least 85 people on April 7, according to medical personnel.

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Syrian state media say rebels in a town northeast of Damascus are handing over their weapons as part of an agreement reached with the Syrian government.

But Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov denied any interference and again insisted there was no attack.

Alexander Shulgin, the Russian envoy at the OPCW in The Hague, said allegations that Russia might destroy evidence reflected Washington's effort to justify Saturday's strikes.

The United States accused Russian Federation on Monday of blocking global inspectors from reaching the site of the poison gas attack.

An inspection by the team of experts can definitely prove whether a chemical weapon has been used, but not who used it.

Eliot Higgins, who runs Bellingcat, a research network that investigates conflicts, told The National that depending on the type of chemical used, the delays could hamper any investigation.

Syrian anti-aircraft defences shot down missiles fired at the Syrian airbase of Shayrat in Homs province and another base northeast of the capital, Damascus, Syria's state television and pro-Iranian Hezbollah media said. "This is going to set the Syrian chemical weapons program back for years", McKenzie said in a press briefing.

France will spend 50 million euros ($62 million) on new projects in Syria to be carried out by around 20 humanitarian groups, the president's office said Monday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the Western strikes had violated worldwide law and set back the peace process, the Kremlin said.

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