- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 25, 2018

BEIRUT (AP) - The Latest on the Syria conflict (all times local):

5:45 p.m.

The global chemical weapons watchdog says its team of inspectors has visited for the second time a Syrian town hit by an alleged chemical attack earlier this month and taken samples.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in a statement on Wednesday that samples taken by the team in the town of Douma, just east of Damascus, will be sent to OPCW designated laboratories for analysis.

The OPCW’s fact-finding mission visited Douma for the first time over the weekend, two weeks after the April 7 attack. Their entry into the town was delayed by security fears.

More than 40 people were killed in the suspected chemical weapons attack in the town. The OPCW team is mandated to establish whether chemical weapons were used, but not to apportion blame.


3:35 p.m.

U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock says he expects donors to pledge 4.4 billion dollars in humanitarian aid for Syria and neighbors sheltering its refugees for 2018.

Lowcock told reporters during an international donor conference in Brussels on Wednesday involving around 85 delegations that the figure was his “best guess” based on commitments made so far.

He said “we’ve made a good start,” even though the pledges would fall well short of the estimated 7 billion dollars the U.N. is seeking.

Lowcock thanked the EU, Germany and Britain for making large offers.


1:30 p.m.

Russian diplomats are planning to bring a group of Syrians to the international chemical weapons watchdog who the Russians claim were filmed in “staged videos” of an alleged chemical attack on the town of Douma earlier this month.

Russian Embassy spokesman Mikhail Sobolev said Wednesday that about 15 Syrians will attend a meeting at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on Thursday to brief member states.

The OPCW, which has sent a team of inspectors to Syria to investigate the alleged attack, had no immediate comment.

The event is part of an ongoing clash of narratives between the West and Syria and its key ally Russia about the April 7 attack.

Opposition activists and first responders in Douma say the attack was carried out by government forces and killed more than 40 people. The U.S., France and Britain also blamed the Syrian government, and launched punitive airstrikes a week after the attack.

Six days after the incident, Russia’s Defense Ministry accused Britain of direct involvement in staging video images of alleged victims. Britain vehemently denied the Russian accusation.


1:20 p.m.

The Russian military has indicated it will supply the Syrian government with a sophisticated air defense system, after condemning a missile attack launched by the U.S., Britain and France earlier this month.

Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi said in a statement Wednesday that Russia will supply Syria with “new missile defense systems soon.” Rudskoi did not specify the type of weapons, but his remarks follow reports in the Russian media that Moscow is considering selling its S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to Syria.

Top Russian officials said earlier this month that Moscow may reconsider a pledge it gave a decade ago not to provide Syria with the S-300 system in light of the airstrikes on Syria earlier this month.

Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

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