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US strike destroyed 20 per cent of Syria's working jets:Mattis
March 24 2018, 11:36 | Irvin Gilbert
Pool Getty Images
At his first Pentagon news conference as defense chief, Mattis said the US strike was meant only to demonstrate Washington's intolerance of violations of an worldwide convention against the use of chemical weapons.
Senior administration officials stopped short of saying there was definitive proof of Russian collusion with Syria on the chemical attack last week, but the administration bluntly accused the Russian government of helping the Syrian regime cover-up chemical weapons still in the country.
He also said that Russian-brokered talks in Astana had "not produced much progress", adding that he had hope that a process underway in Geneva over Syria's political future would be fruitful.
Intelligence services from several Western countries dispute have disputed Russia's claim Syrian rebels were responsible for the chemical weapons.
After days of contradictory messages from the Trump administration, the USA defense secretary, James Mattis, used his first Pentagon press conference on Tuesday to clarify that the United States seeks no wider military involvement in a conflict he defined as extraordinarily complex.
His comments came just after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrived in Russian Federation to challenge the Kremlin over its support for Mr Assad.
Foreign ministers from the Group of Seven industrialized nations gathered in Lucca for a meeting given urgency by the chemical attack in Syria and the US military response, with participants aiming to pressure Russian Federation to end its support for President Bashar Assad.
Mattarella said he hoped that Russian Federation would use its influence in the country to avoid future attacks of this nature.
In response to the chemical attack, that was believed to be carried out by the Syrian government, two U.S. Navy war ships fired off 59 cruise missiles targeting an air base in central Syria.
Mattis emphasized that the chemical weapons used by the Syrian regime against civilians were against Syria's agreement with the U.S.
"This [the USA strike on Syria] strongly reminds of the 2003 events when U.S. representatives in the UN Security Council showed allegedly chemical weapons found in Iraq", the Russian president said.
Asked about the Reutersreport, a U.S. military spokesman later told a Pentagon news briefing that the USA commander for the campaign has been "calling in the resources that he needs" to protect United States forces in the wake of the strikes. CAN'T PROVE RUSSIA ROLE The incident has chilled US relations with Moscow after a presidential campaign during which Trump frequently called for an alliance with Russia to fight Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.
Officially Tillerson is not due to meet President Vladimir Putin, only his foreign minister counterpart Sergei Lavrov - but for Donald Trump the main man is Putin.
The move came after a suspected chemical weapons attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Seikhun last week in which at least 87 people were killed.
Officials said Tuesday that Russians were located on the small base before the chemical attack was launched.