U.S. defence secretary says Syria dispersed warplanes, retains chemical weapons

Fri Apr 21, 2017 7:07pm GMT

By Idrees Ali

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday that Syria had dispersed its warplanes in recent days and that it retained chemical weapons, an issue he said would have to be taken up diplomatically.

The United States launched dozens of missiles earlier this month against a Syrian air base in response to a chemical attack that killed 90 people, including 30 children. It says the Syrian government launched the attack from the Shayrat air base.

The Pentagon has said that the strike had damaged or destroyed about 20 percent of the Syrian military's operational aircraft.

During a press conference alongside his Israeli counterpart, Mattis was asked whether the Syrian military had moved warplanes to a Russian base in Latakia.

"They have dispersed their aircraft, no doubt. They have dispersed their aircraft in recent days," Mattis said.

Mattis also reiterated that the United States believed Syria had retained some chemical weapons.

"The bottom line is, I can say authoritatively they have retained some (chemical weapons). It's a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions, and it's going to have to be taken up diplomatically," Mattis said.

Israel's military said on Wednesday it believed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces still possessed several tonnes of chemical weapons.   Continued...

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis (C) is greeted by U.S. Ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith (L) and Qatar Ministry of Defense Director of International Cooperation General Abdullah Jumaan al Hamad (R) as he arrives at Al Udeid Air Base in Doha, Qatar April 21, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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