Muslim Times (Web Desk) – The White House says US President Donald Trump has cancelled his first official trip to Latin America originally planned for this week to focus on the issue of a suspected chemical attack in Syria.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Tuesday that Trump would remain in Washington to oversee the response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria, and that Vice President Mike Pence would make the trip in his place.
“President Trump will not attend the 8th Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru or travel to Bogota, Colombia as originally scheduled,” Sanders said in a statement.
“At the president’s request, the Vice President will travel in his stead. The president will remain in the United States to oversee the American response to Syria and to monitor developments around the world,” she added.
The White House said a day earlier that the US president was considering all options in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack against civilians in Syria’s militant-held town of Douma.
The alleged chemical weapons attack hit the town of Douma in Eastern Ghouta region in the suburban area near Damascus late on Saturday, reportedly killing at least 60 people and wounding more than 1,000 others.
Eastern Ghouta, which is home to nearly 400,000 people, fell to multiple militant groups in 2012, months after Syria plunged into crisis and has since served as a launch pad for fatal attacks against residents and infrastructure in Damascus.
The Western countries blamed the Douma incident on the Syrian government. Damascus rejected the accusations of using chemical munitions and said that the so-called Jaish al-Islam Takfiri terrorist group, which has dominant presence in Douma, was repeating the accusations “in order to accuse the Syrian Arab army, in a blatant attempt to hinder the Army’s advance.”
The US president has threatened to respond “forcefully” to the alleged chemical attack despite strong warnings from Russia.
During a United Nations Security Council meeting on Monday, US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley also said that Washington “will respond” to the incident regardless of whether the council takes action or not.
Syria surrendered its stockpiles of chemical weapons in 2014 to a joint mission led by the US and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), which oversaw the destruction of the weaponry.
It has also consistently denied using chemical weapons over the course of the foreign-backed militancy, which gripped the country in 2011.
Western governments and their allies, however, have never stopped pointing the finger at Damascus whenever an apparent chemical attack takes place.
In April 2017, a suspected sarin gas attack hit the town of Khan Shaykhun in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, taking at least 80 lives. Accusing Damascus, the US then launched several dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base, taking the lives of about 20 people including both Syrian soldiers and civilians.