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Putin and Rouhani condemn US missiles against Syria

Russia's President Putin and Iran's President Rouhani have condemned US action against Syria in a phone call. Washington's UN ambassador meanwhile has said Syria's President Bashar al-Assad cannot stay in power.

During a phone call on Sunday - reportedly on Iran's initiative - Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani called for an objective investigation into the suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria's Idlib province.

In a statement on its website, the Kremlin said the two leaders were ready to deepen cooperation to fight terrorism.

Echoing comments made on Friday by Russia's deputy envoy to the UN, Vladimir Safronkov, following US airstrikes on Syria, Putin and Rouhani said aggressive actions by the United States against Syria were "not permissible and violated international law."

'No solution' with Assad at the helm

The phone call between Moscow and Tehran on Sunday came as Washington's UN ambassador said that in light of Tuesday's suspected chemical attack, which prompted the first direct US military action against the Syrian government, President Bashar al-Assad cannot stay in power.

In an interview with CNN, Nikki Haley said peace in Syria was impossible with Assad still at the helm.

Read more: Opinion The US sends a warning to Assad and Putin

"There's not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime," she said.

"If you look at his actions, if you look at the situation, it's going to be hard to see a government that's peaceful and stable with Assad."

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"Regime change is something that we think is going to happen," she said, adding that Washington was also focused on fighting the "Islamic State" (IS) group in Syria and ending Iranian influence.

Change in US approach

After years of calling for Assad's removal during Barack Obama's presidency, Washington appeared to be stepping back from seeking regime change in Syria in recent weeks.

Before the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Assad's fate should be decided by the Syrian people, suggesting Washington would not oppose him standing for re-election.

Read more: Can history tells us what might come next after the US intervention in Syria?

Following Tuesday's suspected chemical attack, however, President Donald Trump ordered a barrage of Tomahawk missiles on a Syrian air base in Shayrat in the early hours of Friday morning.

Both Assad's regime and its allies in Moscow have denied responsibility for Tuesday's attack, saying any nerve agents released must have belonged to the rebels and could have been hit by a conventional strike.

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Trump strikes back in Syria: Middle East analyst Daniel Gerlach speaks to DW

Russia 'responsible by proxy' 

British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon accused Russia on Sunday, however, of being "responsible" by proxy for the death of 87 civilians, including many children, killed in last week's attack.

"Assad's principal backer is Russia. By proxy Russia is responsible for every civilian death last week," Fallon wrote in an opinion column published in British weekly "The Sunday Times."

"If Russia wants to be absolved of responsibility for future attacks, Vladimir Putin needs to enforce commitments, to dismantle Assad's chemical weapons arsenal for good, and to get fully engaged with the UN peacekeeping progress," he added.

ksb/se (Reuters, AFP)

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