US President Donald Trump is talking tough on Syria after a shocking chemical attack that killed 72.
US President Donald Trump is talking tough on Syria after a shocking chemical attack that killed 72. Susan Walsh

Trump warns Assad over attack

DONALD Trump has made an implicit threat to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after the shocking gas attack in the country that killed 86, including 30 children.

Speaking at a White House press conference after the emergence of harrowing pictures showing children doused in chemicals and struggling to breathe, the US President said the attack was an "affront to humanity” that could not tolerated.

Mr Trump said the attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun was "so horrific” because it involved "innocent people, small children and even beautiful little babies”.

"That crosses many, many lines,” he told reporters alongside Jordan's King Abdullah II.

"These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated.”

He said the crisis in Syria was now his "responsibility”.

Mr Trump has previously advocated against a US military attack on the Assad regime. He tweeted on the subject many times in 2013, urging then president Barack Obama not to intervene in Syria because there was "no upside and tremendous downside”.

At the press conference, though, he repeated the cryptic comment that he was a "very flexible person”.

"That attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me. Big impact ... it's very, very possible that my attitude to Syria and Assad has changed very much,” Mr Trump said.

When asked whether he planned to use force against Syria, he said he would not follow the lead of previous administrations by discussing military plans publicly.

"I'm certainly not going to be telling you,” Mr Trump told a reporter.

"The world is a mess. I inherited a mess: the Middle East, North Korea, horrible trade deals ... we're going to fix it.”

He slammed Mr Obama for drawing a "red line” against the use of chemical weapons in 2012 but failing to solve the problem.

"That set us back a long ways, not only in Syria, because it was a blank threat,” Mr Trump said.

During the press conference, he made no mention of Russia, which has been accused of propping up the Assad regime.

Mr Trump's comments came after strong language from the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who warned that the US would take action in Syria if the Security Council failed to act.

"There are times at the United Nations when we are compelled to take collective action,” Ms Haley said.

"When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action.”

Australia has joined the global chorus condemning the attack but is also among those who have backflipped on the removal of Mr Assad as a precondition to peace in Syria.

He is now seen as a tolerable part of transitional arrangements in the country, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has said.



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