US investigating possible Russia collusion in Syria chemical attack

White House accuses Russia of showing a pattern of trying to shift blame for chemical attacks away from the Syrian government

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The Independent US

The US is to investigate possible Russian collusion in the suspected chemical attack carried out by the Syrian government.

The White House said there was currently no consensus in the intelligence community about whether Russia knew about the chemical attack before it was launched last week, killing 80 people.

Damascus denies it was behind the attack.

An official at the White House said Vladimir Putin had isolated Russia by aligning himself with Bashar al-Assad, and accused Russia of showing a clear pattern of trying to shift blame for chemical attacks away from the Syrian government.

The comments come after Mr Putin accused rebels of planning a fake chemical attack in order to frame Mr Assad.

The Russian president, speaking in Moscow alongside his Italian counterpart, said: “We have information from different sources that these provocations - I cannot call them otherwise - are being prepared in other regions of Syria, including in the southern suburbs of Damascus where there are plans to throw some substance and accuse the official Syrian authorities.”

Mr Putin also called for his own investigation into the chemical attack, saying: “We plan to turn to the United Nations bodies in The Hague and call on the global community to thoroughly investigate into this incident and make balanced decisions based on the investigation’s outcome.”

He added that some in the West are using Syria to cast Russia as a "common enemy".

The dispute between the two world powers has erupted as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Moscow for talks with his Russian counterpart.