EU Parliament head bans top Syrian official after attack

BRUSSELS, Belgium – European Parliament head Antonio Tajani has banned a top Syrian official from a conference on the conflict after the suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held town earlier this week.

Tajani sent a message to leftwing MEP Javier Couso warning that Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Ayman Soussan would not be allowed to attend the conference planned by the lawmaker on Monday, according to a copy of the document seen by AFP.

"Please be advised that, following the recent use of chemical weapons and the subsequent developments, I have decided not to authorise this event on parliamentary premises," Tajani said, according to the message.

"I have taken this decision as politically it is clearly inopportune to hold this conference," he said.

"For security reasons, I have also decided not to authorise Mr Ayman Soussan access to the European Parliament," he added.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime in Damascus was widely blamed for a suspected chemical attack on a rebel-held town on Tuesday, prompting US President Donald Trump to order cruise missile strikes on a Syrian air base.

The European Union supports a political transition in Syria whereby Assad steps down to make way for a new government, and the bloc reaffirmed this position on Monday.

Brussels hosted an international donor's conference on Syria mid-week attended by opposition figures which raised some $6.0 billion for humanitarian aid efforts this year. –