Russia says Syria chemical attack was staged by foreign rival


LONDON — Russia said it had "irrefutable" evidence that the deadly Syria chemical weapons attack that has prompted the U.S. to consider airstrikes was fabricated.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told a news conference Friday that there was a "very alarming atmosphere" over the issue and likened plans for a military response to failed action in Libya.

"God forbid any other military gambles will be taken in Syria," he said.

Lavrov cited "irrefutable data that [this] was yet another staged event and staging was done … by the special services of one of the countries at the forefront of the anti-Russia campaign.

His comments come after President Donald Trump called last Saturday's attack in Douma "heinous" and "atrocious" and said his administration was weighing how to respond.

More on the chemical weapons attack in Syria:

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April 2018 Syria attack leaves dozens dead
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April 2018 Syria attack leaves dozens dead
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 07: An affected Syrian child receives medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 07, 2018. (Photo by Halil el-Abdullah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 07: An affected Syrian man receives medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 07, 2018. (Photo by Halil el-Abdullah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 07: An affected Syrian kid waits to receive medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 07, 2018. (Photo by Halil el-Abdullah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 07: Affected Syrian kids wait to receive medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 07, 2018. (Photo by Halil el-Abdullah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 07: An affected Syrian man lies on a stretcher as he waits to get medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 07, 2018. (Photo by Halil el-Abdullah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 07: Affected Syrian kids wait to receive medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 07, 2018. (Photo by Fadi Abdullah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
IDLIB, SYRIA - APRIL 08: A man holds a photo of a victim baby as he and other demonstrators gather to protest against Assad regime forces' allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta, in Saraqib town of Idlib, Syria on April 08, 2018. (Photo by Mahmut Bekkur/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 07: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'SYRIAN CIVIL DEFENSE (WHITE HELMETS) / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) Affected Syrian kids receive medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Douma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 07, 2018. At least 78 civilians dead, including women and children, according to the initial findings. (Photo by WHITE HELMETS / HANDOUT/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 08: An affected Syrian kid receives medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 08, 2018. At least 78 civilians dead, including women and children, according to the initial findings. (Photo by Mouneb Taim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - APRIL 08: An affected Syrian kid receives medical treatment after Assad regime forces allegedly conducted poisonous gas attack to Duma town of Eastern Ghouta in Damascus, Syria on April 08, 2018. At least 78 civilians dead, including women and children, according to the initial findings. (Photo by Mouneb Taim/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
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Activists and aid groups say dozens died in the assault on Douma, the last rebel stronghold in eastern Ghouta, which has been subjected to intensive bombing by Syria's Russian-backed regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The U.S. has blood and urine samples from the area that have tested positive for chemical weapons, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence.

The samples suggested the presence of both chlorine gas and an unnamed nerve agent, two officials said. Typically, such samples are obtained through hospitals and collected by U.S. or foreign intelligence assets on the ground. The officials said they were "confident" in the intelligence, though not 100 percent certain.

Assad is known to have stocks of the nerve agent sarin, and has previously used a mixture of chlorine and sarin in attacks, according to U.S. officials.

Lavrov urged more diplomatic contacts over the issue and said Russia was open to further telephone contact between Trump and President Vladimir Putin.

"Diplomatic methods need to be used, which do not include ultimatums and threats," he said.

Earlier this week, a Russian diplomat pledged that U.S. missiles would be shot down and American military assets targeted in the event of strikes targeting Syria.

The White House said Thursday that Trump has not made any final decisions regarding a U.S. response after convening with national security advisers but that a decision would be made "soon."

The U.S. ambassador to Britain said Friday that Trump had spoken overnight with Prime Minister Theresa May about "the need for a joint response."

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