Syria gas attack: Theresa May condemns 'barbaric' targeting of civilians – The Guardian

Theresa May has said that the regime of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, and its Russian backers must be “held to account” if found responsible for the poison gas attack that killed dozens of people at the weekend.

During a visit to Denmark, the British prime minister condemned the “barbaric” targeting of innocent civilians, including children, but repeatedly refused to say whether it was necessary for the UK to join international military action against the Assad regime.

Standing alongside her Danish counterpart, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, a close ally, May told reporters: “If they are found to be responsible, the regime and its backers, including Russia, must be held to account.”

After being asked twice whether the UK would back military action, May said “What we are urgently doing with our allies is assessing what has taken place.

“Obviously, if this is a chemical weapons attack of the sort the initial reports suggest that it is, this is another example of the Assad regime’s brutality and the brazen way in which they have ignored the interests of their people.”

When asked whether she had a direct message for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, she said Moscow should “look very carefully at the position they have taken”.

Aftermath of suspected chemical attack in rebel-held Douma in Syria – video

May is under growing pressure to take action after Saturday’s suspected poison gas attack on the rebel-held town of Douma killed at least 42 people; horrific footage has emerged of the victims.

Earlier, Downing Street said the UK was working with its allies to come up with a rapid and unified response to the apparent chemical weapons attack.

A No 10 spokesman said the UK would consider “a range of options” if there was verified evidence of chemical weapons being used, but refused to speculate on what these may be.

He also warned Russia, which backs Assad’s regime, against seeking to obstruct the work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which has confirmed it has begun an investigation into the attack.

On Sunday, Donald Trump tweeted that the Syrian regime and its backers would pay a “big price” for the attack. Later that day Israeli warplanes bombed a Syrian regime airbase east of the city of Homs, Russian and Syrian military forces said.

On Monday the OPCW, which is based in The Hague, said it had begun looking into the Douma attack and was “in the process of gathering further information from all available sources to establish whether chemical weapons were used”.

May’s spokesman said this process should go ahead as rapidly as possible. “We’ve seen issues in the past with Bashar al-Assad’s regime, clearly, but as regard to this specific incident, it’s right that an investigation is carried out and then we agree a common response,” he said, adding: “We would also make the point that Russia must not yet again try to obstruct these investigations.”

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said he condemned the use of chemical weapons in any scenario, but did not place the blame on Assad directly, instead calling for the UN to be able to access the area to investigate.

He condemned “those who delivered the weapon, those who stored it, as well as those who manufactured it”, and added: “I call on all parties to cooperate urgently with the UN in conducting an inquiry into this so we can find out exactly who delivered the chemical weapon. The evidence is important and the use of international law is crucial to bring about a more peaceful world in the future.

“The tragedy and the terror of people’s lives in Syria can only end by a political solution, that means every country in the region, as well as Russia and the US, coming together to ensure there is a meaningful ceasefire, and there is a political process in bringing about a political solution to the conflict that has wasted so many lives in Syria.”

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