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UK, allies point finger at Russia over poisoning

China Daily | Updated: 2018-03-14 07:41

LONDON - Britain was scheduled to hold new emergency talks on Tuesday into the brazen nerve agent poisoning of a Russian former double agent on its soil, after the US and NATO backed London in implicating Moscow in the assassination attempt.

As diplomatic tensions soar, Russia has denied accusations of its involvement in the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in southwest England on March 4.

British Prime Minister Theresa May told parliament it was "highly likely" Moscow was behind the poisoning which involved a military-grade nerve agent, giving Russia until the end of Tuesday to answer the accusations, in comments that have stoked speculation Britain could call on its allies to mount a joint response.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that Britain should resolve the incident before discussing the issue with Moscow.

"Get to the bottom of things there, then we'll discuss this," Putin said while responding to a question of a BBC journalist about whether Russia was behind the attack.

Both the United States and NATO issued statements in support of London, as concern mounts over the use of what May described as a military-grade nerve agent developed by Russia.

Earlier on Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the incident happened in Britain and it was not Russia's affair at all.

Moscow also rejected May's assertions, saying it was "a circus show" and an attempt to undermine trust ahead of its hosting of this summer's soccer World Cup.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said May's statement was part of "another information and political campaign based on provocation".

Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, remain in a critical condition in hospital after being found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping center in Salisbury.

Emergency workers in biohazard suits have been deployed in the normally sleepy city, while some 500 people who may have come into minimal contact with the nerve agent were urged to wash clothes and belongings as a precaution.

Rex Tillerson, who was replaced as US secretary of state late on Tuesday, said earlier that Washington had "full confidence" in the investigation, adding that it was "almost beyond comprehension" that a state would use such a substance on public streets.

'Great concern'

May said Britain had given Moscow until the end of Tuesday to disclose details of its development of a nerve agents program to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

If there was "no credible response", it will conclude it was "an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the UK", she warned, and pledged to outline a "full range of measures" in response on Wednesday.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the incident was "of great concern" to the alliance.

French President Emmanuel Macron also "offered his solidarity with the UK" in a phone call with May.

Xinhua - AFP - AP

(China Daily 03/14/2018 page12)

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