>> The US Secretary of Defense says the Syrian government appears to have called off an impending chemical weapons attack. The White House warning earlier this week that it believed Syrian forces were preparing for such a strike and would pay a heavy price if they carried it out. Now James Mattis, speaking to reporters on a flight to NATO's Brussels Headquarters, said the Syrians seem to have taken warning seriously but couldn't say whether their preparations were completely halted or just postponed.
He offered no evidence except that an attack hadn't been carried out and one US government source said the intelligence that led to the warning was far from conclusive.
t a separate official told Reuters the incident's focused on the same Syrian air base struck by American cruise missiles last April.
Retaliation for what Washington says was a poison gas attack that killed 70 people that month in rebel territory. Damascus denied involvement. Russia, the main backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said any preemptive measures against Syrian forces would be responded to proportionately. The latest dispute coming just two weeks after the US shot down a Syrian war plane prompting Russia to take a more aggressive posture toward American air craft.
Washington said the jet had bombed fighters on the ground allied to the United States.