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Trump gave Syria attack order 'during dessert'

Pentagon said there is 'no doubt' Syrian regime was behind last week's chemical attack
Trump said he ordered the cruise missile strike during dinner with his Chinese counterpart (AFP)

US President Donald Trump gave the order to strike Syria with dozens of cruise missiles "during dessert" with visiting Chinese leader Xi Jinping, he said in an interview aired on Wednesday.

"We had finished dinner. We're now having dessert. And we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you've ever seen and President Xi was enjoying it," Trump told the Fox Business television network.

Given word that US warships in the Mediterranean were "locked and loaded," Trump said the decision was made then "to do it, so the missiles were on the way."

"And I said, 'Mr President, let me explain something to you' - this was during dessert - 'we've just fired 59 missiles.'"

At one point in the interview, Trump referred to striking Iraq, not Syria. 

"So what happens is I said we've just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq and I wanted you to know this. And he was eating his cake. And he was silent," Trump said. 

Trump had been hosting Xi at his private Florida resort Mar-a-Lago on 6 April. The US missiles struck a Syrian air base in retaliation for an alleged Syrian chemical attack on a rebel-held town, killing 87 civilians, many of them children.

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said on Tuesday there was "no doubt" the Syrian regime was behind the chemical attack. But Russia, Syria's ally, disputes that, saying no evidence has been produced.

Trump regularly spends his weekends at his Mar-a-Lago resort, which his staff have nicknamed the "Southern White House".

Members of the club pay a $200,000 fee, which gives access to its amenities and its eateries.

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