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After Syria Attack, Tillerson Vows To Defend Innocents

11 April 2017

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson blamed Russian Federation for the escalating tensions, saying it broke its promise to the worldwide community by not enforcing Syria's agreement to not use chemical weapons.

Tillerson himself raised fresh expectations for aggressive USA action - and not only in Syria - as he visited Sant'Anna di Stazzema, a Tuscan village where the Nazis massacred more than 500 civilians during World War II.

The US diplomacy chief arrived in Tuscany late Sunday and briefly met Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida Monday morning before attending a WWII memorial at the site of a Nazi massacre in Sant'Anna di Stazzema near Lucca.

Mr Trump ordered a series of missile strikes last week in response to the deaths of more than 80 people, including children, during a chemical attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun.

As he laid a wreath at the site, Tillerson alluded to the chemical attack in Syria last week that triggered retaliatory USA airstrikes.

Even before Trump ordered last week's strike in retaliation for a nerve gas attack, Tillerson's visit was certain to be dominated by thorny issues, including Russian interference in the 2016 USA election, an apparent violation of an important arms control treaty, and seeing what cooperation, if any, is possible in the fight against Islamic State.

Some officials, like Tillerson, said the USA was confident Syrians would choose on their own to push Assad aside, while suggesting the US wouldn't mandate it. U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and others said ousting Assad was indeed a US goal, but only one of several.

Tillerson ought to be "very matter of fact" in his meetings, Blinken said, sending Russian Federation a message that: "If you don't rein him in, we will take further action".

The two leaders spoke about the crisis by telephone as the United States president thanked the PM for her backing of his military strikes against Syrian government forces last week.

Three times during Monday's White House briefing, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer mentioned barrel bombs as another reason for launching attacks on Assad. He is scheduled for talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov April 12.

Bashar Assad's days as president of Syria are numbered, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested Monday as more hostile talk from worldwide powers continued to amplify the threat of a military escalation in the Middle East.

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That trip, too, is fraught with tension over Syria: Tillerson has blamed Russia, Assad's strongest ally, of either complicity or incompetence for allowing Assad to possess and use chemical weapons.

The chemical attack has sent a new chill through relations between the West and Moscow, which denies Syrian forces used chemical weapons.

Peskov, Putin's spokesman, said on Monday that the USA strikes had shown Washington's total unwillingness to cooperate on Syria.

"Clearly, Assad is not that person", Haley said.

The G-7 meeting comes as the United States is sending a Navy carrier strike group toward the Korean Peninsula in a show of strength following North Korea's persistent ballistic missile tests.

"I think the Russians need a way out and a way forward", Johnson said.

Ahead of the meeting, Western leaders condemned the suspected chemical attack on civilians in northwestern Syria last week.

His comments came after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson pulled out of a Moscow visit hours before he was due to fly.

Tillerson said Washington's priority remained the defeat of the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) terrorist group.

Among European nations, there are also differences.

After Syria Attack, Tillerson Vows To Defend Innocents