Rouhani, Putin Slam US Aggression on Syria

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, meanwhile, blamed Russian inaction for helping fuel the chemical weapons attack it had reacted to, saying Moscow had failed to carry out a 2013 agreement to secure and destroy chemical weapons in Syria.

On Saturday, Syrian warplanes resumed flights from an air base targeted in Friday's USA cruise missile attack, according to a provincial governor who said the base was operating from what he described as "a first phase". The United States, which has supported anti-government forces in Syria, should help integrate moderate and democratic forces within Syria, while Russian Federation should persuade the Assad administration, which it supports, to create an environment for a smooth transfer of power.

Alaa Alyousef, who lost 25 relatives in the chemical attack, said the USA missile strike "alleviates a small part of our suffering", but he worries it will be an "anesthetic" that merely numbs the pain while allowing the global community to save face.

Lawmakers say President Donald Trump needs to work with Congress on a "long-term" Syria strategy following last week's USA missile strike.

Pressed to clarify, McMaster said the goals of fighting IS and ousting Syria's president were somewhat "simultaneous" and that the objective of the missile strike was to send a "strong political message to Assad" to stop using chemical weapons.

Trump's United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, said the United States had "multiple priorities" in Syria and that stability there was impossible with Assad as president. There was no comment from Russian Federation or Iran about the statement.

Rouhani called for "an independent commission" by "impartial countries" into the claims.

An immediate sign of potential fallout from the strike came from Moscow, which said it would strengthen Syrian air defenses to protect the country's key infrastructure. It had been expected that with the coming of the Trump Administration, US-Russia ties would improve and that would have a salutatory impact on the Syrian crisis as well.

The statement from the Syrian presidential office further noted that the U.S. missile attack had boosted the Syrian government's resolve to crush foreign-sponsored Takfiri terrorist groups, vowing to expedite the pace of clean-up operations against the extremists.

Russian Federation had agreed to ensure Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles were destroyed - and its failure to do this enabled the attack, he said.

Christine Wormuth, a former Pentagon official under Obama who is now a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said she did not currently see a risk of the Russians or the Syrians shooting at USA planes.

In a Friday statement, the ministry described the Khan Shaykhun attack as a "premeditated action that aimed to justify the launching of a USA attack on the Syrian army".

The protesters in the capital held banners and chanted "Death to America" and "Death to Israel". They were referring to the 2003 USA -led invasion of Iraq after Washington said Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction - a belief that later turned out to be incorrect. A spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry underscored the need to "prevent the situation in Syria from getting worse and to protect this hard political solution process".

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson conceded that the runway at the targeted Syrian air base was still in use, but said the USA strike destroyed about 20 percent of the Syrian Air Force's 7th Wing. The groups Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently and Sound and Picture said the attack killed a woman and her six children.

Tillerson had faced questions about whether he understood that his new position meant he was now the face of the United States to the world, that he had to answer no longer to a small group of top shareholders but to more than 320 million Americans.