OPCW experts expected to arrive in Douma on Wednesday: Russian official

AFPThree targets were hit with missiles

"No other group could have carried out this attack", May told MPs, adding that the Syrian authorities had attempted to "conceal the facts. supported by the Russians".

But "strangers entered as we were in a state of chaos and spread a rumour among people there had been a chemical attack, and people became alarmed".

Only hours later, Syrian TV carried a military statement saying that air defenses fired a number of missiles because of a "false alarm", without providing more information.

On Tuesday, Syrian state media said air defence had shot down missiles over the central province of Homs, with the strikes reportedly targeting regime air bases.

The Pentagon denied any American military activity in the area.

"It was Russian Federation that supported the request of the Syrian government to the Director General of the Technical Secretariat of the [Organization for the Prohibition of the Chemical Weapons] to send ... experts to Douma", the ministry's spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova said, dismissing the media allegations.

OPCW inspectors arrived in Syria over the weekend to establish whether chemical weapons had been used in Douma.

"As of today, Russian Federation and Syria still refuse to give inspectors access to the site of the attack", the French foreign ministry said in a statement.

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Both Syria and its main backer, Russia, deny the Syrian government used chemical weapons.

Independent investigators have been prevented by Syrian and Russian officials from reaching the scene of an alleged chemical attack near the Syrian capital, an official said.

Haley said during an appearance on "Face the Nation" on Sunday that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would be announcing new sanctions directed at companies associated with Syria's chemical weapons program.

Inspectors from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) travelled to Syria last week to inspect the site, but have yet to gain access to Douma, which is now under government control after the rebels withdrew.

"The Syrian regime has reportedly been attempting to hide the evidence by searching evacuees from Douma to ensure samples are not being smuggled from this area, and a wider operation to hide the facts of the attack is under way, supported by the Russians", she said.

Syrian authorities are offering 22 people to interview as witnesses instead, he said, adding that he hoped "all necessary arrangements will be made.to allow the team to deploy to Douma as soon as possible".

USA officials have raised concerns that Russian Federation, the Syrian government's ally, might have tampered with the site. But it said no missiles landed inside the bases. CNN, the Guardian and the New York Times all said that the OPCW experts were either "blocked" or "barred" from the alleged chemical attack site. There was no comment from Israel, which frequently carries out airstrikes in Syria but rarely acknowledges them.

At least 70 people were killed, but Syria denies the attack.

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