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Russia, Iran and Syria warn US against further strikes

Russia's foreign minister says Washington is seeking 'excuses for regime change' in Syria
Syria's Foreign Minister Walid Moallem, left, Russia's Sergey Lavrov, center, and Iran's Mohammad Javad Zarif at meeting in Moscow on 14 April (Reuters)

Russia, Iran and Syria warned Washington that further strikes against the Syrian government would have "grave consequences" on regional and global security.

At a meeting of the three countries' foreign ministers in Moscow on Friday, Russia’s Sergey Lavrov denounced the US attack on a Syrian military airfield earlier this month, calling it a "flagrant violation" of international law.

Lavrov said Washington was seeking "excuses for regime change" in Syria.

"These attempts will not succeed, this will not happen," he said.

Washington launched 59 missiles at the Syrian airbase after a chemical attack in Idlib province on 6 April that Western powers blame on the Syrian government. US officials have threatened additional strikes if chemical weapons are used again. 

Russia, Iran and Syria have rejected the West's accusations.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said the three countries have "common procedures against any aggression," adding that the meeting in Moscow sends a message to the United States.

Russia on Wednesday vetoed a UN Security Council resolution to condemn the chemical attack and demand the Syrian government’s cooperation with an international investigation into the incident

Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran's top diplomat, stressed that Tehran, Moscow and Damascus object to unilateral US actions.

Russia on Wednesday vetoed a UN Security Council resolution to condemn the chemical attack and demand the Syrian government's cooperation with an international investigation into the incident.

Lavrov criticised the world's chemical weapons watchdog on Friday, saying that it has not sent experts to the site of the alleged poison gas attack.

"We consider it unacceptable to analyse events from a distance," Lavrov said at a news conference after the meeting.

Lavrov said Syrian rebels had "in essence" given guarantees for the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to visit the location where at least 87 people died, but the watchdog was refusing to send them.

"They say still that it is not very safe, but they cannot put forward convincing arguments," Russia's top diplomat said.

The OPCW said Thursday that a fact-finding mission was analysing samples gathered from "various sources" and that allegations a chemical attack took place in the Syrian rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun were "credible".

Lavrov said Russia, Iran and Syria have demanded a "thorough, objective and unbiased investigation" under the auspices of the OPCW, insisting it must use "independent experts," including from Moscow.