UPDATE: US questions Syria's role in disarmament forum

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on U.S. reaction to the apparent chemical attack in Syria (all times local):

Photo: The White House/Photo: Roderick Eubanks / DVIDS

4 p.m.

A U.S. official says the United States is examining "how best to deal with" Syria's upcoming presidency of the U.N.'s top forum on disarmament in the wake of an alleged chemical weapons attack in the war-battered country.

Robert Wood, U.S. ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, says "Syria has neither the international credibility nor any moral authority" to lead the forum, "given what they have done to their own people with use of chemical weapons."

U.S. officials are assessing whether Syrian President Bashar Assad's government was behind Saturday's suspected chemical weapons attack on rebel-held Douma, east of Damascus.

The conference's presidency is rotated among 65 member states based on alphabetical order. Syria is to take over from Switzerland on May 28 for four weeks.


3 p.m.

The White House says President Donald Trump is focused on responding to the apparent use of chemical weapons in Syria.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says Saturday's attack, which killed at least 40 people, is "consistent" with President Bashar Assad's "established pattern of chemical weapons use."

Sanders says Trump is "confident" in the intelligence related to the attack but she will not specifically say if the U.S. government has determined that Assad's government was behind the attack.

Sanders is reiterating that Russia and Iran "also bear responsibility for these acts."

The White House says the U.S. is not conducting any airstrikes in Syria. Trump has said he'll make a decision on the U.S. response within 24 to 48 hours.


12:45 p.m.

President Donald Trump has condemned the "heinous" suspected poison gas attack in Syria and said he'll make a decision on the U.S. response within 24 to 48 hours.

Speaking in the White House Cabinet Room Monday, Trump vowed to find out who is responsible for the attack that reportedly killed at least 40 people.

Trump said during a Cabinet meeting with reporters that, "If it's Russia, if it's Syria, if it's Iran, if it's all of them together, we'll figure it out."

Opposition activists said 40 people died in the chemical attack late Saturday in the suburbs of the Syrian capital and blamed it on the Syrian government, which is closely allied with Russia.

Syria has blamed Israel for a missile attack on a central air base early Monday that reportedly killed 14 people, including three Iranians.


9:45 a.m.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says the U.S. is not ruling out military airstrikes against Syria in response to the government's alleged use of toxic gas against civilians.

At a photo-taking session in the Pentagon before a meeting with the emir of Qatar on Monday, Mattis said the Trump administration is consulting with allies in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere.

Asked by a reporter about a possible U.S. military response, Mattis said, "I don't rule out anything right now."

Mattis also said the "first thing" the administration is considering is why chemical weapons are being used at all in Syria. Russia was a guarantor of a deal the Obama administration struck in 2013 in which Syria was to have removed all of its chemical weapons. Mattis added that the administration will work with other countries to "address this issue."


8:45 a.m.

President Donald Trump plans to confer with senior military leaders Monday, after he threatened a "big price to pay" for a suspected poison gas attack in Syria that killed women and children.

Trump was set to get a briefing and have dinner with military leaders. Monday is the first day on the job for his new national security adviser, John Bolton, who has previously advocated significant airstrikes against Syria.

The White House deliberations came as Russia and the Syrian military blamed Israel for a pre-dawn missile attack on a major air base in central Syria. They are saying Israeli fighter jets launched the missiles from Lebanon's air space. A war-monitoring group said the airstrikes killed 14 people, including Iranians active in Syria.