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Friday April 20th, 2018 12:56AM

The Latest: Russia says it's committed to help Syria probe

By The Associated Press
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BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on developments following the U.S.-led airstrikes on Syria (all times local):

1: 40 p.m.

Russia insists it is committed to let the U.N.-backed chemical weapons watchdog do its work in Syria to investigate the suspected chemical attack earlier this month in Douma, a town just east of Damascus.

Russia's Embassy in the Netherlands, where the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is based, said in a statement that it "confirms its commitment to ensure" the security of the OPCW's mission, which is working in Syria.

It also said Russia guarantees it won't "interfere in its work."

Western nations have criticized Russia for defending President Bashar Assad and denying a chemical attack by his forces took place.

___

1:10 p.m.

A Syrian government official says his country is "fully ready" to cooperate with the fact-finding mission from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons that's in Syria to investigate the alleged chemical attack that triggered U.S.-led airstrikes.

Faisal Mekdad, Syria's deputy foreign minister, said on Monday that government officials have met with the delegation, which has been in Damascus for three days, a number of times to discuss cooperation.

The OPCW arrived in Syria a day before the joint punitive airstrikes from the United States, Britain and France a week after the alleged chemical attack in Douma, where activists say more than 40 people were killed.

The OPCW mission has yet to visit Douma, where government and Russian police deployed soon after the rebels in the town surrendered following the chemical attack.

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1 p.m.

A key group of world and regional powers is meeting at the urgent request of Russia to discuss the long-troubled cease-fire in Syria in the wake of airstrikes by the West on Syria.

Russia requested the meeting of the International Syria Support Group's cease-fire task force after the airstrikes in Syria over the weekend by the United States, France and Britain. Moscow, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, has sharply criticized the strikes.

Britain, France and the United States say they took the military action following alleged use of chemical weapons by Assad's forces on a rebel-held area northeast of Damascus.

The task force is hosted by the U.N. Syria envoy's Geneva office and is co-chaired by Russia and the United States. Participants of the task force rarely speak to the media.

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12:50 p.m.

NATO's secretary general says the weekend's U.S.-led strikes will reduce the Syrian government's capabilities of carrying out new chemical attacks.

Jens Stoltenberg also says the strikes by the United States, France and Britain were a "clear message" to Syrian President Bashar Assad, to Russia and Iran that the use of chemical weapons is not acceptable and that the allies would not stand by and watch.

Stoltenberg spoke in an interview with Turkey's NTV television on Monday. The TV broadcast his comments with Turkish translations.

The NATO chief is Turkey for talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other officials.

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10:40 a.m.

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says the bloc wants to use a major meeting on Syria next week to give impetus to U.N. peace moves following Western airstrikes on the country.

Mogerhini said on Monday "there is the need to give a push to the U.N.-led process."

Speaking before chairing talks among EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg, she said that "people are suffering, people are dying, and I think the whole international community has to take responsibility for this."

More than 70 delegations are expected to attend the April 24-25 Syria donor conference in Brussels.

Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said: "We should keep on pushing for a solution through the U.N. Security Council. It's the only way forward."

___

10:20 a.m.

Prime Minister Theresa May is set to face British lawmakers to explain her decision to launch airstrikes against Syria without a vote in Parliament.

Britain, the United States and France hit targets in Syria Saturday in response to a reported chemical attack in Douma.

Parliament returns Monday after a spring break, and was not consulted about the action. The government is not legally bound to seek Parliament's approval for military strikes, though it is customary to do so.

May plans to tell lawmakers that the airstrikes were "in Britain's national interest," were carried out to stop further suffering from chemical weapons attacks and had broad international support.

The government says it will seek an emergency parliamentary debate on the airstrikes Monday, though that is unlikely to satisfy angry opposition lawmakers.

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