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HALA GORANI TONIGHT

Russian Ambassador Speaks to U.N. Security Council; Russian AMB.: U.S., U.K., France Too Quick To Blame Syria; Russian Amb.: Willing To Let OPCW Investigate; Russian Amb.: Allegations Being Used As Pretext For Strike; U.N. Security Council Meets Amid Syria Attack Fallout; Aired 3-4p ET

Aired April 9, 2018 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:01:01]

ISA SOARES, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Hello and a very warm welcome. I'm Isa Soares and I'm sitting in for Hala Gorani.

Tonight, we begin with the global fallout over Syria, a suspected chemical attack over the weekend is drawing global condemnation, blame, denials of

responsibility, and warnings of major decisions to come.

First, let's bring you these live pictures. This is the U.N. Security Council right now. We are keeping track of what members have to say about

this attack in the suburbs of Damascus. We are expected to hear from Nikki Haley, the U.S. representative from Russia and from France, as well as

others.

But earlier, we heard from the U.S. president, Donald Trump says the decision on what America will do next will come soon. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I like to begin by condemning the heinous attack on innocent Syrians with banned chemical

weapons. It was an atrocious attack. It was horrible. You do not see things like that as bad as the news is around the world. You just do not

see those images.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SOARES: An atrocious and a horrible attack, well, the president says that U.S. authorities are looking into Russia, Syria or Iran, all of them, in

fact, were behind this attack, and that's something that Russia denies.

The country's foreign minister even saying there were no traces of chemical weapons. That is in stark contrast with a figure that's emerged of the

reported aftermath of this attack and a warning, it is extremely graphic, and you may want to turn away now, but it is important that we show it to

you.

This was shot by rescuers and activists. Dozens are reported dead. Antigovernment activists said these people were hit with a toxic gas. The

Syrian government denies using chemical weapons and CNN cannot confirm the authenticity of these harrowing images.

Well, we've got all the angles of this major developing story covered (inaudible) Jeremy Diamond is live for at the White House. Fred Pleitgen

standing for us in Damascus, Syria, and Nic Robertson is in Moscow keeping across the reaction from Russia.

And if I may, I want to start with you, Jeremy, because we've heard President Trump signaling yesterday there will be a big price to pay, those

are his words. And he said a few hours ago that a major decision on the response will come in next 24 to 48 hours.

So, talk us through, what are the options on the table for this administration. What are you hearing at least?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, we do not know specifically what options this administration is currently considering, but

what the president made clear is that all options remain on the table and all options that usually means military action.

This is, of course, just about a year and a couple days after the president launched his first strikes against Syria, those 59 Tomahawk missiles that

struck a Syrian airbase following one of the first chemical weapons attacks in Syria of Trump's presidency.

And now the president appears to be considering another retaliatory response in light of these latest -- this latest chemical weapons attack

where we have seen this graphic footage widely publicized, which is probably playing into the president's decision-making frankly.

You know, that the White House is also facing questions and some criticisms as far as whether there is any link, perhaps between this chemical weapons

attack and the president's comments last week in which he signaled that he plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria.

He even met with his top national security advisors and told them to start preparing for the potential withdrawal of U.S. troops in Syria. The White

House press secretary, Sarah Sanders, pushed back on that notion, saying that she believes it's outrageous to say the president of the United States

green lit something as atrocious as these actions that have taken place.

And making clear that the only -- that the United States believes it can withdraw from Syria over the coming probably six months to a year or so

while still holding the Assad regime accountable for these actions.

The United States making clear that it is still trying to determine who was directly responsible for these attacks, but clearly laying the blame at the

foot of Bashar al-Assad's regime, as well as its supporters, Russia and Iran.

[15:05:05] We saw this in very notable direct criticism from the president to Russian President Vladimir Putin, something that we have rarely if ever

seen from this president in the past. And so now he is making clear that there will be a price to pay and Vladimir Putin may be one of those to bear

part of that price.

SOARES: Price it is. We do not know. Jeremy, do stay with us. I want to bring Fred and Fred, the images we showed our viewers was just out of

Syria, extremely difficult to watch. From what you are hearing talk to us about what happening (inaudible) and what is the Assad regime saying, at

least, what their official line is.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, it's interesting because it always happened on Saturday. It only happened

about 8 miles from where standing right now, Isa. It was in the late evening hours of Saturday when opposition activists on the ground say that

helicopters from a Syrian government were circling over that area, Duma, which was the last rebel-held enclave just outside of Damascus, east of

Damascus.

They say that canisters were dropped from those helicopters and shortly after that, many, many people on the ground started to get respiratory

problems and then in the wake of that, dozens of people then later died.

Of course, we see those (inaudible). They are very difficult watch at the same time, of course, they are so very important in these hours as well.

The Syrian government for its part says that it absolutely did not use any chemicals.

And it's interesting to see their line of argumentation. They essentially say two things. They say, first of all, this rebel enclave was on a brink

of giving up any way. They say they were advancing very quickly (inaudible) was going.

It is true that there were negotiations already going on before that, between the Russians and this rebel group to evacuate that area. They also

say that the rebels that were on the ground there called (inaudible) Islam were holding (inaudible) prisoners at that time, thousands of them.

And the Syrians said, look, if we would have used gas, we would have gassed our own people or our pro-government people who are on ground there. They

say clearly that is not something that would have been in their interest of doing.

So, basically, the argument of the Syrian government so far is that they had no motive to do any of this and that's the line that they currently

stick by despite the fact, that, of course, we keep seeing those images -- Isa.

SOARES: Let's stick to that line that their argument there, Fred, because the attack, of course, coming as Syrian (inaudible) and in many ways,

President Assad was nearing his end game, let's say, in Syria. So, what would justify Assad to striking in this way? What does he gain from it,

Fred?

PLEITGEN: Well, you know what, I'm not necessarily sure it's the end game in Syria, but it certainly was the end game in (inaudible). I think that's

something that's very significant and certainly something that we need to talk about as well. This place, Duma, was the last rebel-held enclave in

the east of Damascus.

It was always a thorn in the side of the Syrian government because on the one hand, you had heavy Syrian airstrikes (inaudible), but you also had the

rebels (inaudible) Islam in that area firing back here at the capital of Damascus.

(Inaudible) some of that on the weekend on Friday specifically, but there were a lot of mortar and rocket fire that was coming towards here,

(inaudible) parts of Damascus. At the same time, though, that battle was in its final stages.

That place was surrounded. They were on the verge of giving up, and by now, Isa, they have given up. Those rebels are being bussed to the north

of the country and the troops that are moving in that area now are the Russian troops, which, of course, is very interesting as well.

Because the area where this attack happened is now accessible to the Russian troops and with that potentially also accessible to any sort of

international investigation team if in fact, the Russians would allow one in and let them operate there -- Isa.

SOARES: Fred, do stay with us. I want to bring in on Nic Robertson. Nic, Russia for its part is calling this a hoax as well as a provocative act,

but there seems to be differing versions of events coming out of the Kremlin. Talk us through this.

ROBERTSON: Well, what you have on the one hand from the spokesman of Vladimir Putin, Dmitri Peskov, has said that it would be dangerous to draw

conclusions about what has happened until there's been a thorough investigation.

Now, he said that earlier in the day. Since then, more information has been coming forward from the Russian side. We have had in the last sort of

hour or so, the Russian military is saying that from the Russian Reconciliation Center in Damascus, they been able to send in their own all

the medics.

And those medics have been to some of the medical centers there that have not found anyone or any evidence that chemical weapons or chlorine gas or

any description has been used. We have also seen a statement from the state news agency, TASS, here that says not only have those army medics

gone in from Russian Reconciliation Center, but also a team of army WMD experts, experts in nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

[15:10:01] They've been in. They've inspected the terrain there where these -- where the chemical weapons were allegedly used. They are also

saying they found no evidence and this is something that the Foreign Ministry, Sergey Lavrov, is reinforcing. This what he said about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): Our military experts already went there as well as the representatives of the Syrian Red

Crescent, who have a very high reputation among international organizations such as the U.N. and the International Red Cross Committee. I didn't find

any traces of chlorine or other chemical substances used against civilians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: What we've also heard from the Russian military is that they have threatened that if the United States fires missiles into Syria, they

will target those missiles. They would target the carriers firing those missiles.

And they've said that this is a very dangerous situation. The Foreign Ministry has warned of serious consequences if the United States was to

take that type of military action in Syria.

SOARES: Nic Robertson for us there in Moscow. Fred Pleitgen live for us in Damascus an Jeremy Diamond for us in the White House. Thank you very

much to you, Gentlemen.

Of course, we are keeping an eye on the U.N. briefing, Security Council briefing that's happening right now. We know that Staffan de Mistura is

speaking now. He is the U.N. special envoy to Syria. Let's take a listen.

STAFFAN DE MISTURA, U.N. SPECIAL ENVOY TO SYRIA: -- returning to the narrative of the events, at the round midnight of the 7th of April, hours

after the alleged chemical weapons attack, Jaish al-Islam informed the U.N. that they had reached an agreement with the Russian Federation and the

Syrian government.

The Russian Federation Ministry of Defense stated that the agreement encompasses a ceasefire and Jaish al-Islam fighters laying down their arms

or evacuating Duma. The Russian Federation also reported that up to 8,000 Jaish al-Islam fighters and 40,000 of their own family members were to

evacuate.

As I brief you, now, we understand that additional evacuations from Duma are already underway. We have also received reports, and some detainees,

the ones we had heard before had begun to be released from Duma today.

We do note reports that the agreement provides for civilians who decide to stay, to remain and the guarantees of the Russian Federation with the

resumption of services in coordination with the committee of civilians locally.

I urged the Syrian government and the Russian Federation to ensure protection of those civilians so that as many civilians as possible can

stay in their homes if they choose to or leave to a place of their own choosing or return as per international law.

(Inaudible) that there will be or there should be an immediate refocus for the implementation of Security Council Resolution 2401. What we are seeing

here is basically an escalation before a de-escalation.

Mr. President, clearly the danger of further escalation arise from situation beyond Ghouta as well. We have received reports of missiles

targeting the Syrian government (inaudible) or T4 base airbase early this morning.

No state has claimed responsibility for this reported strike. The United States and France have explicitly denied any involvement. The Syrian

government, the Russian Federation and Iran have suggested that Israel could have carried out the attack.

With the Iranian state media reporting over those in military personnel being killed and injured, including four Iranian military advisors. The

government of Israel has not commented. The United Nations is unable to independently verify or attribute responsibility for this attack.

But we urge all parties to show the must restrain and avoid any further escalation or confrontation. We also concerned at dynamics in other areas

of Syria. Syrian's Indira northern rural homes, Eastern (inaudible), Hama and Idlib, have all expressed to us their own fears that they may soon face

similar escalation to what we have seen in Eastern Ghouta.

We urge therefore this council (inaudible) and those states involved in (inaudible) efforts to work towards reinstating the escalation in these

areas and elsewhere in Syria.

[15:15:12] The indications are the opposite at the moment. Meanwhile, further to its operation in Afrin, the Turkish government has indicated the

potential for further operations in other areas of Northern Syria.

If PYD and YPG forces are not removed from those areas, military operations in such areas have the potential of international tensions and we therefore

urge all parties concerned to deescalate, show restraint and find through dialogue means to implement 2401 and fully respect serenity and territorial

integrity of Syria.

Let me also highlight that we have seen recently, and this is particularly tragic when you look at the efforts of all of us, all of you in the last

year, seen recently ISIL launched new operations in Syria, inside Syria, in south of Damascus, rural Damascus, in remote areas near the Iraqi border.

Mr. President, let me conclude with some bottom lines, if I may. First, civilians are paying a heavy, heavy, heavy price for military escalation.

We are not seeing de-escalation. We are seeing the contrary.

Today, our first priority must be protect civilians from the war, conflict, chemical weapons, hunger. We call on all sides to ensure respect for

international humanitarian and human rights law including humanitarian access across Syria to all people in need. And we urge once more concrete

respect of Resolution 2401 throughout Syria, your resolution.

Second, continued allegations of use of chemical agents are of extremely grave concern. These allegations must be independently and urgently

investigated. Any use of chemical weapons is absolutely prohibited and constitutes a very serious violation of international law, chemical weapons

convention, Security Council Resolution 2118. Preventing impunity and any further use of chemical weapons and upholding international law must be an

utmost priority of all members of this council.

Third, I have to say it very slowly because it is the first time during my presentation over four years of my own briefings that I have reached a

point in which I am expressing a concern about international security not only regional or national or Syrian security.

Mr. President, dear members of the Security Council, recent developments carry more than ever before the dangers that the secretary general has

warned about recently at the Munich Security Conference.

He spoke of Middle East of, quote/unquote, "different fault lines" that are completely crossing each other and interconnected, of conflicting interest

of both global and regional powers, and forms of escalation that can have absolutely devastating consequences that is difficult for us to even

imagine.

The Council cannot allow a situation of uncontrollable escalation to develop in Syria on any prompt. Instead, he must find unity and address

the concrete threat to international peace and security in Syria today.

Thank you, Mr. President, I am sorry to have been short, but focusing on one specific concern, the threat to international security related to what

we are seeing now in Syria and on the danger of repetition of the alleged chemical weapons attacks.

[15:20:06] Next time, I would be able to give you a briefing about humanitarian issues, about other aspects about the political process, which

I know we all are interested and focus on, but today is the day of security, international security and peace. Thank you.

SOARES: You have been listening Staffan de Mistura, the U.N. special envoy to Syria. Really laying out the fact as he knows it from the last since

the weekend really. He said the civilians are paying a heavy, heavy price, he says, for military de-escalation.

He said he urged all parties to show restraint and de-escalate the situation on the ground, and really respect their territorial integrity of

Syria. He went on to say that following the alleged attack Syria and Russia have reached an evacuation deal with the rebels and he said it is up

to 8,000 fighters had been at evacuated and 40,000 family members.

He also basically said that this is a call for him, international security. The recent developments show the dangers of the difficult fault lies not

just locally but also globally within regional power.

He said this has devastating consequences, and he said the Council cannot ignore the situation of uncontrollable escalation, those were his words.

He said the most important thing right now is to protect civilians from hunger, but also from those allegations of chemical weapons. He said that

must be investigated. This is in violation of international law.

We are keeping an eye on the United Nations Security Council. We expect to hear from Nikki Haley from U.S. We also expect to hear from France as well

as Russia. But as soon as he from Nikki Haley, we, of course, bring it to you.

But first, I want to get the perspective Cedric Leighton in Washington. He is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and a CNN ministry analyst. Colonel,

thank you very much for joining us.

President Trump said very clearly there would be at big price to pay. What -- can you define for me what a big price that is? I mean, what would be a

military, a big price from the military perspective (inaudible)?

COLONEL CEDRIC LEIGHTON (RETIRED), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, Isa, from a military perspective, I would say the most drastic action that President

Trump could take would be to use airstrikes against Syria. Ground forces or something like that coming in, I think is unrealistic at this time, at

least from the U.S. side.

What perhaps a slightly more realistic would be U.N. peacekeeping force, but there is a lot of our spade work as we would call it that would have to

go into the establishment of a U.N. peacekeeping force that's clearly, you know, I think the way in which Mr. De Misture, the special envoy for Syria,

was kind of angling toward.

But I think shares for his U.S. and possibly French and U.K. actions are concerned, I think what we are looking at here is airstrikes, possibly

missile strikes like we had last year with the Tomahawk missiles. You know, something like that would target some specific areas of the Syrian

military.

The Syrian government making it a little bit more difficult for the Syrian forces to exercise control over civilian populations like the population in

Duma. So, that is, of course, a very tough thing to do just because there is so much that has happened on the ground.

And it would be a very, very difficult thing to do in order to achieve desired effects on the ground as well.

SOARES: But Colonel, how do you form a response that will have a different outcome from the one that we saw a year ago? I mean, is military response

enough, doesn't go far enough? Because it hasn't seemed to change anything on the ground, at least not with Assad, President Assad. So, what will any

of the strikes, what difference will that make?

LEIGHTON: Well, I say, I think the big issue here is that it takes much more than a military response in order to achieve some desired effects.

You are looking at, you know, last year's situation, which was just a Tomahawk strike.

Yes, there were 59 missiles that went into the Syrian airbase at the time, but that is basically a tactical action. What you need to develop, what

the United States needs to develop is a serious military and diplomatic strategy that actually takes into account --

SOARES: Colonel, sorry to interrupt. It's a very fluid situation. I want to go to the United Nations with the Security Council discussing Syria. We

are hearing from the Russian side.

VASILY NEBENZIA, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO UNITED NATIONS (through translator): -- seem to be held in on the agenda item threats to international peace and

security and so far, as we are deeply alarmed at the fact that in a number of capital the above all in Washington and of those blindly following it,

London and Paris.

There was a deliberate policy to stoke international tensions. The leadership of the United States, United Kingdom, and France without any

justifications and without considering the consequences have engaged in confrontational policy against Russia and Syria.

And they are prompting others to follow suit. Well, broad arsenal of methods is being leveraged, slander, insults, hawkish rhetoric, blackmail,

sanctions and threats to use force against the sovereign state.

Well, Russia is being unpardonably threatened. The tone with which this is being the dawn has gone beyond the threshold of what is acceptable even

during the Cold War. Such boorishness against my country is something which your predecessors did not take the liberty to undertake.

What is next: We recall a rhetorical question which the president put forward in 2015 from the United Nations General Assembly to our western

partners. Above all, the United States concerning their reckless geopolitical experiments in the Middle East.

Do you understand now what you have done and the response at that time hanged in the air, but there is a respondent, no, you do not understand.

Just as you felt to understand what you are doing now.

The lack of a clear strategy on any issue is appalling not just to us, it confounds not only us. This is confounding to the majority of those seated

share what they are doing decided not to openly put this forward to you following you everywhere you go, regardless of what you everything you

touch chaos is left behind.

And in the brackish waters of which you try to take out fish something, but only mutant fish are being taken out. I will put another rhetorical

question forward. Do you understand the dangerous threshold towards which you are bringing the world?

One of the areas where there is hostility that is most stark that is on Syria. The terrorists and extremists supported by external sponsors are

enduring a defeat there. Let us recall that we are talking about those terrorist and extremists, you who supplied finance and deployed in the

country to oust legitimate government.

And now it is clear why this is causing hysteria among those who invested political and material capital in these dark forces. Recently thanks to

the efforts undertaken by Russia in line implementation of Security Council resolutions, a large calibration has been undertaken to lift the siege of

Eastern Ghouta.

Its residence for a number of years were forced to endure the mockery and torture of cockfighters. More than 150,000 civilians were evacuated from

that Damascus suburb, but a complete -- purely voluntarily with the requisite security conditions being provided.

Tens of thousands of them have already been able to return to the liberated areas and many were met with their -- many met with their relatives. There

has been no change in democratic -- the composition which is being shouted about by supporters of the Syrian opposition has occurred.

These are lies with the leaders of armed groups that there were difficult negotiations that took place as a result, many of them left the areas they

had occupied with full respect for guarantees for their safety.

Incidentally, during the transportation operation that several attempts undertaken to stage terrorist attacks. When the militants attempted to put

to -- to reach the buses with the Shaheed belts.

Other preferred to settle their status with the Syrian authorities. Thanks to Presidential Amnesty. They now will be able to return to civilian life

and subsequently it is possible they may enter the Syrian security forces.

We are talking about implementation of a U.N. principal and demobilization, disarmament and integration. However, this is a positive dynamic is not to

the liking of some foreign sponsors through western countries were willing to take up any straw just to maintain a hotbed of terrorist resistance to

striking distance from the Syrian capital, this for the fighters to continue to terrorize ordinary civilians if to seize their food and to

request from the international -- to beg up the international community that humanitarian systems be delivered.

Incidentally, they were not prepared to (INAUDIBLE) with ordinary civilians as what's shown in the inspection of the stronghold left behind by the

fighters. And as with the case in the past (INAUDIBLE) improvised hospital facilities in basements were full of medicine, which as a result of a

sanction -- was been sanctioned were not provided to Damascus and other government controlled areas. Also, large storage (INAUDIBLE) were found as

where the bodies of the corpses of people who had been subjected to torture.

We are stunned at the scale of the tunnels that were being used by jihadists and some of them small trucks were able to freely move about.

These surprising underground facilities brought together the positions of the groups who are viewed by some as moderate and they were linked to the

stronghold of (INAUDIBLE) April, the new head of Islam following instructions of sponsors of the evacuation of the fourth of party of the

fighters from Duma and resume the rocket and mortar firing against residential areas in Damascus.

The firing targeted (INAUDIBLE) Abu Rummaneh and (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Umayyad.

NEBENZYA (through translator): According to official information, eight died, 37 civilians were wounded. Unfortunately (INAUDIBLE) from western

capital's condemning the shelling of a historical district of Damascus. The following day, 7th of April (INAUDIBLE) accused the Syrian authorities

of dropping barrel bombs with toxic substances. At the same time, the versions were being mixed up. There was that other called Sarin, tons of

chlorine or tons of mix of toxic gases.

Based on a well-known scheme, these rumors were immediately taken out by both finance by western capitals. I'm referring to NGOs and the White

Helmets who are mendaciously acting under the cloak of health professionals and these reports were also taken up and transfer to media outlets. It's

the who once again to say that many of these do be his opposition structures have a clear list of the e-mail addresses of representatives

that the Security Council members, which shows that some of our colleagues voraciously approach -- with the reckless approach towards the (INAUDIBLE)

leaking sensitive information to their proteges.

Incidentally, all should recall the way that accidentally, the White Helmet sort of put on the internet and a video where which showed preparation for

staging the so-called victim of an alleged attack perpetuated by the Syrian army.

In 2011, the chemical Syria begun and this continue as be shown to us with the calculation for each new episode to be more resident than the one prior

to it. And Washington, London, and Paris immediately collusions were drawn pinning blame on the Syrian authorities or as they call it, the regime.

Has nobody for the question as to themselves, why does Damascus need this? There were insults against the Syrian government. However, the Syrian

leadership. However, the main burden of responsibility was pinned on Russia and Iran and I think that this is hardly surprising to anybody at

this point. Now, this has been had done, based on current trend, immediately without an investigation being conducted. On 8th April, the

Syrian troops sweeping through (INAUDIBLE) near Duma found a homemade manufacturing area (INAUDIBLE) Islam to manufacture the chemical substances

artistically of chlorine agents of German manufacturers and special equipment were also discovered.

[15:35:16] In Istanbul, as opposition journalists (INAUDIBLE) put on his Twitter page a video allegedly from the area of the incident. This has

probably from the White Helmets, an unknown individual is next to a handmade bomb with the chemical which allegedly -- which allegedly struck

the bedroom of a building in Duma.

All of this is accompanied by comments about another attack by the regime against civilians. This stage nature of this action is something of which

there's no doubt the trajectory of the alleged -- trajectory of the bomb is unnatural. This entered -- this through -- fell through a roof and

naturally calmly fell into a bed without damaging that bed. A wooden bed, without damaging the wooden bed, clearly was a place there prior to

preparation for the staging. And then interesting -- there's an interesting incident, the chemical provocation in Duma on Saturday, 7th

April occurred immediately after the U.S. delegation at the Security Council, received the instructions to convene for today Monday, 9th April

to convene expert a level consultations on their draft resolution on the mechanism to investigate incidents of chemical weapons.

The initial text today has far-reaching change in revisions. And under this obscure -- under this obscure sort of consensus, of course we need to

get to the bottom of what is taking place. However, we need to do so in an honest objection and partial way without the disregard in the principle of

presumption of innocent and by no means prejudging the outcome of the investigation, despite the provocations. The Russian specialist continue

their efforts to resolve the situation in eastern Ghouta. And afternoon, 8th April, Sunday, following a new agreement that was reached, the

evacuation of (INAUDIBLE) fighters resumed. Following the liberation of Duma from fighters, a Russian specialist were sent there, a specialist on

radiological, chemical and biological protection to collect evidence and cremation. They took a soil sample, which show the lack of nerve agent and

chlorine containing substances.

Locals were interviewed about the cessation of resistance to the fighters. Not a single local resident confirmed the chemical attack having taken

place. A local hospital, those -- there were no reports about symptoms from a toxic substance such as chlorine, other medical facilities are not

located in Duma.

The bodies of the dead, as a result of contamination were not found. Medical personnel and residents have no information about their potential

burial areas, thereby the use of Sarin and chlorine is not confirmed. Incidentally, the representative of the Syrian (INAUDIBLE) refuted the

statement allegedly made on their behalf on the delivery of assistance to victims toxic gas.

I call upon those who will speak against me slandering the regime to perceive from the premise that there was no chemical weapons attack.

Sweden drew a draft resolution to investigate the incident. In principle, in order to conduct an investigation, OPCW needs no resolution. However,

we are willing to consider this resolution. Today, we propose that what U.N. visits in your project and your drafts be done, let the OPCW which

through the technical -- director general of the technical secretary, Mr. (INAUDIBLE) stated a willingness to get to the bottom of what took place,

let it immediately tomorrow, fly to Damascus. There, the Syrian authorities and Russian troops will provide conditions to travel to the

area of the alleged incident for them to familiarize themselves of the situation. Incidentally, this is what President Trump and other western

leaders called upon us to undertake.

[15:40:11] So for the possibility of a chemical attack being a possibility, this is repeatedly warned about by the Syrians and the Russians center for

the reconciliation of opposing sides who have stated that in order to take film of a chemical attack, and I put this in quotes, the necessary

equipment has already been brought in. We too, made irrelevant statements of the Security Council, you've heard these warnings. You've heard but

deliberately ignored them and so far as they do not align with the doctrinal of use of those who sleep within see in elimination of

illegitimate government in another Arab country.

Still, what is not being looked into is the fact that a significant number of chemical weapons were discovered November, December 2017 in Syrian

territory that has been liberated from fighters to terrorist's storage site in Zakiyah and Hama Providence. Twenty-one ton containers were discovered,

more than 50 ammunitions were found which contained toxic chemicals.

(INAUDIBLE) Idlib province, 24 tons of toxic chemicals were discovered and this is believed to be chlorine. The storage site, al-Hamidiyah, 13

kilometers, northeast of Damascus, 241, 160 millimeter caliber ammunitions were found. Canisters were found with phosphorous. With phosphorus

substances and compounds.

And the area of (INAUDIBLE) of Idlib Province, an industrial complex that was found for the synthesis of a various toxic substances, 54 chemical,

ammunitions were found with a 44 chemical containers were found and these could be used for the manufacture of toxic substances. From the beginning

of this year alone, four instances were reported fighters using toxic chemicals against (INAUDIBLE) where governments and troops are located

(INAUDIBLE)

More than 10 Syrian troops were hospitalized, Three March when Hazrama and Aftris were liberated in Eastern Ghouta. Fighters from government troops

discovered in the tunnel an underground artisanal manufacturing site to make chemical ammunitions of a handmade nature. And this is far from a

full list. It points to -- the wrongdoings and abuses by the irreconcilable opposition.

However, the OPCW's expert being sent there to identify evidence is not something which we see people eager to do. We demand that OPCW verify all

of those areas. Access is being -- can be provided.

Also information is surfacing that counts of account American instructors - - trained a number of groups or fighters to stage provocations with chemical weapons used to create a pretext for a strike.

It was clear to us that the attempt to shelter terrorist and at the same time to punish the regime so hated by some western capitals will sooner or

later be undertaken. Speaking heads on television screens sought to repeat last year's -- last year's attack against Syria. Last year's strike this

morning, there were strikes, some missile strikes against the (INAUDIBLE) airfield in Homs Province. We are deeply troubled by such action.

Provocations and (INAUDIBLE) echo last year's incident in (INAUDIBLE). The unifying moment, especially with the fact that there's a planned nature of

these attacks and also the U.S. operations prior to and after the incident in (INAUDIBLE) in April 2007 shows that Washington ahead of time prepared

for its operation.

The U.S. porter and naval destroyers, from four to seven April, last year, that is when the toxic substance was used in (INAUDIBLE) before the strike

against the (INAUDIBLE) air base were already present in the Mediterranean waters where they were engaged in planed operations. They did not enter

the port where an exchange of ammunitions could have been taken place by increasing the number of cruise missiles.

[15:45:02] Enter four to five, April, the porter and destroyer was located southeast of Sicily and the Ross naval destroyer was in passage from the

(INAUDIBLE) base in the area southern -- south of Sardinia. Later, six, April, an expedited movement of a boat naval destroyer were reported in the

firing positions south -- more south west of Cyprus. From there, on 7th, April, they conducted a mass strike against the (INAUDIBLE) airfield. At

the same time, the number of a tomahawk missiles that were launched for 59 units, served (INAUDIBLE) and over ammunitions for two naval destroyers if

they had actually been engaged in the anti-missile defense operations that had been assigned to them and for that purpose, only 48 units were

necessary. Thereby, U.S. naval vessels, even prior of the chemical incident in (INAUDIBLE) entered military service with strike -- good for

strike equipment that is an increase of a cruise missiles that were more than -- that were necessary for the anti-missile defense and this could

attest to prior planning by Washington and act a strike against Damascus.

The fake news on Saturday from Duma are geared into directly towards drawing attention of a society away from the Skripal case which was modeled

up by London. And holding -- and throwing on Russia completely unconfirmed accusations and with the aim of appalling solidarity to build an anti-

Russian alliance. Now, the English are stepping away from a transparent investigation and putting forward specific responses for the question of

put and at the same time, they are sweeping up their tracks.

During the Security Council meeting, five, April, on the Skripal case, we cautioned that an attempt to unjustifiably place blame on us of having had

a hand in the Salisbury incident was linked to the Sarin chemical. Though yesterday, this issue saw new interesting developments. For the moment,

U.K. foreign administrative, Boris Johnson continues to disclose the things against Russia and attempt to be witty and here is the following pearl.

Experts of a British naval actually for south of the Cyprus intercepted on the day of Skripal's poisoning. On the day of Skripal's poisoning, the

intercepted reports from Damascus to Moscow, and this is what Times is reporting. It contains the following sentence. The phrase of -- the

message has been delivered. The parcel has been delivered and two individuals successfully left. This turns out to be part of the

intelligence information provided by London to allies, prior to the expulsion of Russian diplomats.

However, it is not (INAUDIBLE) that there is an irrefutable link here. I'm not to all. Syria, Russia, Salisbury. I would hinder to the British

intelligence services and I will do so without charge. Another powerful course that why will not propose that Novichok, which is so like now was

received -- was reached Salisbury directly from Syria, by parcel, to cover up their tracks. This is complete mockery here.

Ambassador Haley recently say that the Russia will never be a friend of the Unite States, and I wish to respond to that. Friendship is something which

is both reciprocal and voluntary. One cannot force a friendship. And we are not particularly keen to be friends with you. We are not begging to be

friends with you.

Well, what we want from you is really nothing, something that is normal civilized relation which you arrogantly refused, disregarding elementary

courtesy, basic courtesy. And you're misguided, if you think that you have friends.

[15:5:05] You have a so-called friends of yours are only those who cannot say no to you. And this is the sole criterion for friendship in your

understanding. Russia has friends and unlike yourselves, we do not have adversaries. We do not view the world without treason. And, yes,

international terrorism, that is our enemy.

However, continue to propose cooperation. This needs to be respectful and mutual collaboration. It needs to veer towards resolving real, not imagine

problems. And you should be equally interested, equally as interested as we are into cooperation, ultimately as permanent members of the Security

Council, we bear the main responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, based through the relevant channels

wherever we convey to the U.S. that armed force under mendacious pretext against Syria. We're at the request of the legitimate governance that the

country Russian troops have been deployed could lead to grave repercussions.

We call up on western politicians to scale down their hawkish writer to meaningfully consider possible repercussions and to seize the reckless

spillover of threats to global security. What military misadventures of the west have bring about are well known to us if we consider the examples

of Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya and nobody has invested you the power to act as -- act as (INAUDIBLE), as policeman of the world, and at the same time

to act both as investigators, procurators, judges and executioners.

We call for your return to this legal fold to comply with the U.N. charter and to join the tackle problems that arise rather than attempting at each

step to advance your egotistical geopolitical games. All of the energy needs to be focused on support for the political process to which end that

is necessary to constructively full the efforts of all influential players Russia always tend to engage in such cooperation.

To conclude, Mr. President, I wish to take this opportunity to request an open briefing of the Security Council on the outcomes of the U.N.

assessment mission in Raqqa and the situation in the (INAUDIBLE) camp. As the members, we see the way - members of the commission attempting to

create a smoke around this issue which is a result of their actions in Syria including the operation to raise Raqqa to the ground through the

bombings. No chemical provocations will detract attention from this, from what you've done. Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have been listening to Vasily Nebenzya who's a Russian ambassador to the U.N. very strong words there from him. I'm just

going to break some of them down for you. He says Russia is being (INAUDIBLE) threatened, he said. And he said the tone is worst in the Cold

War. He said, this is gone beyond what is acceptable. He said the west is trying to stoke international tensions. He's really trying to make the

case, take their case, and he basically took swipe at the U.S., as well as the U.K. talking anti-Russian sentiment.

Russia, let's get more in this. Fawaz Gerges is the next bet on this region. He's the author of "Making The Arab World" and the chairman of the

contemporary of Middle East study at the London School of Economics. He's live for us in Beirut. And staying with us in Washington, Cedric Leighton.

Gentlemen, thank you very much. Fawaz, I'll start with you. What did you make of this?

FAWAZ GERGES, CHAIRMAN OF THE CONTEMPORARY OF MIDDLE EAST STUDY, LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS: Well, very, very strong words. In fact, as the

Russian ambassadors have the situation now, the relationship between the United States and the Western powers are very poisonous. He says that the

situation is worse than the Cold War. This is the Russian narrative. If you really want to know why nothing will happen in Syria, because the

Security Council is polarized. It's paralyzed, because the Russians will never accept the case of the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons or gas

in Syria. So regardless what do United States does in the next day or two. I don't think the situation in Syria will change a great deal, because

Russia fully support the Russian regime. Not just Russia, Iran as well.

And as long as the Security Council is paralyzed, the international community will remain powerless to make really any particular difference in

Syria.

[15:55:52] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fawaz, stay with us. I want to bring in the colonel. Colonel, I was slight depict, because at one point Vasily

Nebenzya was basically saying the Russian specialist went to Duma, they took soil samples, he said, that showed a lack of nerve agent and chlorine.

He said there were no reports of hospital chemical weapons, no contaminated dead bodies found, but then he said he didn't start blaming, pointing the

fingers as the White Helmets staying, they suggest the attack was staged. So, how did you interpret that? Because it seems to me like he said, there

wasn't an attack, whether there was an attack but it was staged.

CEDRIC LEIGHTON, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Exactly, I think it was an excellent point because the way the Russians are couching this right now is

that the White Helmets are basically a tool of ISIS, on the one hand and possibly a tool of western propaganda on the other. So they have a

concerted effort that takes not only to what the Russian-U.N. ambassador said, but also to the world of Twitter.

Yesterday, I retweeted a new story about the attack in Duma and very quickly, somebody with ties to Russia end into a conversation with me about

it and basically alleged that the White Helmets were in fact a tool of ISIS. And I asked for proof and after they attempted to give me the proof,

their feed was basically deleted.

So this is a concerted effort on the part of Russia to actually change the narrative. One the one hand, like you very correctly pointed out, they

were denying that this attack ever occurred and that their experts didn't find anything. On the other hand, they're also saying -- well, this attack

occurred, but clearly there was something that was -- that was staged about it. And you can't have it both ways. There is definitely something very

fishy here. There's something that is not quite right when it comes to their narrative on what exactly transpired in Duma.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Colonel, thank you very much. Colonel Cedric Leighton in Washington. And Fawaz, always great to see you and get your

insights. I'm sorry, we didn't have any more time. Thank you, gentleman.

If you're just joining us, let me bring you up to date. We've been listening to the Russian ambassador to the U.N., that's Vasily Nebenzya,

who have very strong words. He basically said Russia is being (INAUDIBLE) threatened. He said, the west strategy on Syria is confounding. And he

said this has gone beyond what is acceptable, the tone he says is worse than the Cold War. He went on to say that the leadership of U.S., U.K.,

France, have engaged in confrontation policy against Russia. We'll keep on top of the United Nations, but hoping to hear from the U.S. as soon as

Nikki Haley speaks. We'll bring that to you. Thanks very much for watching. Stay with us. "QUEST MEANS BUSINESS" is next.

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