U.N. Security Council Holds Emergency Meeting To Discuss Syria Attacks The U.N. Security Council holds an emergency meeting to discuss the chemical attacks in Syria.
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U.N. Security Council Holds Emergency Meeting To Discuss Syria Attacks

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U.N. Security Council Holds Emergency Meeting To Discuss Syria Attacks

U.N. Security Council Holds Emergency Meeting To Discuss Syria Attacks

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

President Trump has called an apparent chemical weapons attack in Syria an affront to humanity. His envoy to the United Nations says if the Security Council won't act, the U.S. may have to respond on its own. This is a big test for the Trump administration, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: At the emergency Security Council meeting she chaired, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley stood up to show pictures of the victims of what appears to be the latest atrocity by Bashar al Assad's regime. They were images of the bodies of children, some in diapers.

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NIKKI HALEY: We cannot close our eyes to those pictures.

KELEMEN: Haley calls the attack a new low for the Assad regime, saying the chemicals left men, women and children gasping for their last breath.

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HALEY: And as first responders, doctors and nurses rushed to help the victims, a second round of bombs rained down. They died in the same slow, horrendous manner as the civilians they were trying to save.

KELEMEN: Russia's deputy U.N. ambassador, Vladimir Safronkov, told a very different story.

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VLADIMIR SAFRONKOV: (Speaking Russian).

KELEMEN: He says the Syrian air force hit a warehouse where rebels stored chemical weapons. Western experts have debunked that. So, too, did British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, who blasted Russia for blocking any meaningful diplomatic response.

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MATTHEW RYCROFT: That is the sad reality that the world has gotten used to. They view us as the table of diplomats doing nothing, our hands tied behind our backs, beholden to Russian intransigence.

KELEMEN: Ambassador Nikki Haley also had tough words on that, saying it's clear that both Russia and Iran, which back the Syrian regime, have no interest in peace.

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HALEY: When the United Nations consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action.

KELEMEN: She didn't elaborate, though, and a Syrian opposition negotiator says Haley and others have been sending the wrong signals on Syria by suggesting that Assad's ouster is no longer a priority. Bassma Kodmani calls this a test for the new administration.

BASSMA KODMANI: The use of chemical weapons on civilians at a moment when this administration has just stated that it is willing to put aside the issue of Assad I think is a provocation and a test.

KELEMEN: Kodmani says the Obama administration lost credibility when it didn't strike Syria after a 2013 chemical weapons attack, having drawn a clear red line against that. She has some thoughts on what the Trump administration could do to change this.

KODMANI: A strike against one military target, maybe that airport from which that aircraft took off to go and bomb and spread chemical weapons. I think that might be one way of saying this cannot continue.

KELEMEN: She says the U.S. should also press Russia to ground the Syrian air force and to distance itself from Iran, which she says has its own sectarian agenda in Syria. President Trump wouldn't say what options he's considering to respond, but says the chemical attack was unacceptable and crossed many red lines for him. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

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