U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley addressed the UN Security Council Saturday evening as it gathered for an emergency session after a Russian complaint about U.S.-led airstrikes overnight against Syria.
Speaking before the council, Haley said that the U.S. will not allow the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad to continue the use of chemical weapons.
"The time for talk ended last night," Haley said, when the U.S., the U.K. and France struck targets in Syria. "We are prepared to sustain this pressure, if the Syrian regime is foolish enough to test our will." The UN ambassador said that U.S. President Donald Trump told her that if the Syrian regime uses it again, "the U.S. is locked and loaded."
"When our president draws a red line, our president enforces a red line," she added.
>> Read more: ■ Putin may limit Israel's operations in Syria in retaliation for strikes | Zvi Bar'el ■ Trump chose not to threaten Assad's rule. The question is what Putin will do | Amos Harel ■ Attack gives instant gratification but is much ado about nothing | Chemi Shalev ■ Strikes can't hide fact the world has abandoned the Syrian people | Anshel Pfeffer >>
"We gave diplomacy chance after chance," Haley said, noting that so far, the security council has convened six times on the situation in Syria – and that Russia vetoed six times.
"While Russia was busy protecting the regime, Assad took notice," Haley said. "The regime knew it could act with impunity – and it did." According to Haley, "Russia's veto was the green light for the Assad regime to use the most barbaric weapons against the Syrian people."
- U.S.-led attack can’t hide fact the world has abandoned the Syrian people
- Trump chose not to threaten Assad's rule. The question is what Putin will do
- Syria live updates: Israel 'struck advanced Iranian air-defense system', not only attack drones
Haley said that the U.S.-led strikes overnight were part of a "new course chartered last year to deter the use of chemical weapons."
In his address to the council, Russian Ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia accused the U.S. and "foreign intelligence services" of staging a suspected nerve gas attack on the Syrian town of Douma last Saturday. He claimed that scientific facilities in Syria are only used for peace activity, adding that Russian experts had found no traces of chlorine.
Noting that the U.S. and its allies struck before the UN's chemical weapons watchdog launched an investigation, Nebenzia accused the Western powers of undermining the council's authority when they made the decision to strike Syria overnight.
Meanwhile, the French Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre said France didn't doubt that Assad's regime was responsible for the Douma chemical attack.
France reinforced what the U.S. said earlier about Russia's veto. "The Security Council was unable to act according to its charter due to the Russian veto, betraying its commitment to destroy Assad's chemical weapons stockpile."
Later Saturday, the council rejected a resolution proposed by Russia to condemn the U.S.-led strikes by a vote of 8-3 with four abstentions. Russia had called the meeting to consider the resolution, which condemned the "aggression" against Syria by the United States, Britain and France.
The three countries carried out precision air strikes against targets in Syria early Saturday morning following the attack on Douma, near the Syrian capital of Damascus.
Following the strikes, U.S. President Donald Trump said Washington was prepared to "sustain" pressure on Assad until he ends what the president called a criminal pattern of killing his own people with internationally banned chemical weapons. "These are not the actions of a man; they are crimes of a monster instead," Trump said.
Russia and Iran warned of "consequences" after the strikes. "The U.S. – the possessor of the biggest arsenal of chemical weapons – has no moral right to blame other countries," the Russian embassy in the U.S. said in a statement.
DPA and AP contributed to this report.