this is bbc world news. i'm ben bland. our top stories: the united states says it has proof that the syrian government carried out a chemical attack last week in the town of douma, as western countries consider a military response. at the un, the secretary general says the cold war is back with a vengeance. the situation in the middle east is in chaos. to such an extent, it has become a threat to international peace and security. in his new book, former fbi director james comey calls the president "unethical and untethered from the truth." mr trump says comey‘s a "slimeball." hello and welcome to bbc world news. the un secretary general has warned that the cold war is "back
with a vengeance" — and he gave a dire warning about military escalation in syria. antonio guterres‘s comments were made at a heated session of the un security council in new york — as relations between the west and russia plummeted further. moscow has again defended the assad government saying an alleged attack in eastern ghouta did not involve chemical weapons. it accused foreign powers of staging the attack. the white house says it's now very confident syria carried out last weekend's attack, and 12 american warships have been spotted moving to the middle east. our diplomatic correspondent james robbins reports. douma is firmly back under syrian government control. this is the ruined town where it is alleged president assad's forces used chemical weapons a week ago. rebel forces have now fled or been killed. russian troops are in douma two,
claiming their part of victory, insisting they found no evidence of any poison attack, know that is either. western powers suspect there has been ample time to destroy evidence. the west is finalising plans for possible punitive strikes. at the united nations security council, the cockpit where opposing powers fight with words, today the secretary general warned that present military tensions between the west and russia could spiral out of control. the cold war is back with a vengeance, but with a difference. the mechanisms and safeguards to manage the risks of escalation that existed in the past no longer seem to be present. the united states says it has not yet decided on military action, but their estimates point to president assad using chemical weapons in this war at least 50 times. all nations and all people will be harmed if we allow assad to normalise the use of chemical weapons. syria's ambassador painted a different picture, of western powers fabricating a case to justify force and impose regime change.
translation: those three countries — the us, britain and france — if they think they can attack us, attack our sovereignty, we would have no choice but to exercise our rights under the un charter to defend ourselves. the west rejects that, so what could its military response involve 7 the americans have the uss donald cook in the mediterranean, and it could hit syrian targets with cruise missiles. they could be supported by british tornadoes based in cyprus. then the french have their frigate, the aquitaine, as well as rafale fighter jets based in jordan. us and uk submarines are in the region, too, armed with cruise missiles. no—one is suggesting there has to be confrontation with the russians, but they already have anti—missile defence systems at two airbases in syria, with a range capable of reaching cyprus. the russians also have an unknown
number of fighter jets in the region. russia makes a very different accusation, that the alleged attack was actually faked by the syrian operation, working with british spies or special forces. translation: in fact we have irrefutable data that this was another staged event which involved special services of one of the country is trying very hard to be at the forefront of the anti— russian whatever precisely happened in douma, the russian defence ministry is now accusing britain directly of organising it. britain calls that a grotesque, blatant lie. the war of words is louder than ever. any military steps are still unknown. in the past few hours the white house has said there was no doubt the assad regime was behind a chemical attack on douma. once again we are confident in the intelligence that we have, and in
the fact that we know that syria is responsible for these actions. tension in syria has global implications. our north america editor is in washington. just be on that tour, you go a few steps and you reach the situation rooms, where donald trump and his most senior national security advisers are to gather if there is to be the order to launch an attack. ronald trump was due to be improved this weekend, he has cancelled out. the defence secretary was due to be on the west coast, he is in washington. the un ambassador nicky hayley is on her way to washington. and one other significant thing we heard there, we have now had the state department and the white house at the briefing and the white house at the briefing a short time ago say that in no uncertain terms, they have proof that syria was behind the attack, and russia did nothing to stop it. that is a big change from a day ago.
this attack may have happened sooner but reservations, i am understood, that the pentagon feared a wider escalation. one break could still happen that if the chemical weapons inspectors are in place, i don't think bombing would start them. one other thing, donald trump does not wa nt to other thing, donald trump does not want to be seen as the grand old duke of york who marched his troops up duke of york who marched his troops up the hill and then back down again, always still be compared to barack obama again, always still be compared to ba rack obama who again, always still be compared to barack obama who dithered and then did not act. a phrase war of words is something we hear very often to describe relations between russia and the west. but if you listen to the words russia has been using today, you can see just how wide the gulf is now between moscow and the west, in the words of russia's un ambassador claiming that the us's irresponsible behaviour was unworthy ofa irresponsible behaviour was unworthy of a spot on the un security council. and claiming that the chemical weapons attack in syria was
a provocation by britain. what if words are replaced by weapons, what if america and its allies were to strike on syria, how would russia respond? moscow has made it clear that if the lives of russian servicemen in syria, the russian military will target incoming missiles and launch sites. this is a region which was already tense, even before this latest crisis, and certainly there is nervousness here in lebanon, from where i'm standing it is only a few hours drive to damascus. there is a strong sense that this time, if and when the strikes come, they will be targeting more thanjust strikes come, they will be targeting more than just one strikes come, they will be targeting more thanjust one area, one set of assets. but they will be many targets, and an exceptionally tangled butterfield like syria, that carries risks for all be allies of president assad. and that includes hezbollah fighters in syria, and also to iran. the art reports this
weekend that iran are removed —— are moving senior revolution regard out of syria into iraq, to safer locations, preparing the strikes, and not wanting like we saw recently, when there were other strikes in syria by israel, that iranians were also killed in the targeting. they've publicly clashed before but now the war of words between president trump and former fbi directorjames comey is reaching new levels. mr comey‘s book is being released next week. and it's full of scathing assessments of the president, as jane o'brien reports. president trump famously does not read books, so his furious twitter outburst this morning was more likely prompted i seeing his former fbi director on tv discussing an infamous dossier. the allegation was that he had been involved in prostitutes in a hotel in moscow in
2013, and that the russians had filmed the episode, and he interrupted very defensively, and started talking about, do i look like the guy who needs lookers was mac this is a comey never got on with the president who he describes in his book as "unethical and untethered to the truth". mr trump is not holding back either, tweeting: but firing mr comey in the middle of an fbi investigation into russian interference in the 2016 election fuelled allegations that the president was attempting to obstruct justice. it also prompted the appointment of the special counsel robert miller, whose investigation is gathering momentum. mr comey‘s book does not reportedly reveal much about that but it does give a scathing account of a president he
clearly despises, prompting a response from the white house. the american people see through the blatant lies of a admitted leak. this is not the first time mr comey was the centre of attention. he appeared before congress in a televised hearing that attract nearly 20 million viewers. his book to be released on tuesday is already a bestseller. i spoke to the political commentator eric ham about tensions between president trump and james comey, and why things had become so strained. we have already seen this president actually go through so many fits and doubts with so many different people, and so i think this isjust one more battle in a very large, long—running war since the president took the oath of office more than a year ago. and i think this is going to bea year ago. and i think this is going to be a battle that will continue to ta ke to be a battle that will continue to take place, i think if we begin to
see some type of pushback or any type of catastrophic attacks to the president, i think we will see it as we get closer and closer to the mid—term elections. but make no mistake about it, robert mueller, the special counsel on the russia probe, has had conversations with james comey, and i do believe that he is using those conversations and will use those conversations if and when he gets a face—to—face with the president. and how does this book and the accusations, the allegations that james comey makes, lay into the bigger picture of the robert mueller investigation if at all? what we are seeing from the mueller probe, and we don't know much, because mueller has been very tight, what we do know is that he has been on this track, looking at not only collusion but obstruction of justice. looking at not only collusion but obstruction ofjustice. there are many layers and many facets that can
actually get mueller to that potential conclusion, and one of course is the firing of james comey, because of his continued investigation into the ongoing russia probe and the role that russia probe and the role that russia played in the 2016 presidential election. do you think president trump and the white house have dealt with this in the right way, or is it more becoming to rise above and not give credence to a book like this however much it may call the president to read some of what is being said? —— call.|j call the president to read some of what is being said? -- call. i think the president has gone about this the president has gone about this the wrong way, which is why we are ata the wrong way, which is why we are at a special investigation, because the president needed to allow law enforcement to do its job stay out of its investigation, and u nfortu nately of its investigation, and unfortunately the president just of its investigation, and unfortunately the presidentjust has not done that. we have seen it time and time again, even whenjames comey was head of the fbi, there has
been a long—standing tradition of a wall between the white house and the fbi and the department ofjustice, and the reason for that is because you never want to be seen particularly as having the president 01’ someone particularly as having the president or someone from the white house, which can often be seen as political, having its finger on the pulse of justice. and political, having its finger on the pulse ofjustice. and unfortunately that wall has been shattered with this president. and i think that is going to be a wall that is going to be very long, very difficult to build back, if and when this process eventually comes to a conclusion. stay with us on bbc world news, still to come: president moreno of ecuador says three men seized by renegade colombian rebels last month have been murdered. pol pot, one of the century's greatest mass murderers is reported
to have died of natural causes. he and the khmer rouge movement he led we re and the khmer rouge movement he led were responsible to the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million cambodians. there have been violent protests in indonesia where playboy has gone on sale for the first time. traditionalist muslim leaders have expressed disgust, the magazine ‘s offices have been attacked and it is said that staff have gone into hiding. it was clear that paula's only contest was with the clock, and as her sporting legacy, paula radcliffe's competitors will be chasing her new world best time to use to come. quietly but quicker and quicker, she is seenjust to slide away under the surface and disappear. this is bbc news. the latest headlines:
the united states says it has proof that the syrian government carried out a chemical attack last week in the town of douma, as western countries consider a military response. at the un the secretary general says the cold war is back with a vengeance. iamjoined i am joined now from washington by senior fellow from the global centre for policy, doctor cameron buchari. thank you forjoining us. can you give us any insight into what issues, what decisions, the president and his advisers will be weighing up right now in deciding what action to take? two broad situations that the trump administration is closely looking at in preparation for the airstrikes. number one is, what will be russia's response? how will they deal with russia? number two, to finally
calibrate between a symbolic hour strike like the one they did last april and avoiding going too far. —— symbolic air strike. those are the two issues which are centre stage in the thinking of the trump administration as they prepare to these air strikes. ijust administration as they prepare to these air strikes. i just want to pick up on something interesting. the way you just spoke about it, in your mind, it seems as though it is a given that some form of air strike will happen. what are you basing that on? well, i mean, the administration has made no secret of its intentions to do that. it is just weighing up its various options in terms of the actual military operation of what the president wa nts to operation of what the president wants to do, which is to have a response to the use of chemical weapons by the syrian regime. and, of course, how will it impact the broader balance of power in the region? there are the turks to
consider and the president has spoken to his kurdish —— turkish counterpart. the turkish president has in turn spoken to president vladimir putin. there are the iranians on the ground, there is saudi arabia, which wants to be part of these air strikes. there are many actors. and of course there is the tehran —— iran versus israel co ntestation tehran —— iran versus israel contestation within syria. there are lots of moving parts which the administration needs to considering how it responds to this situation. —— consider in—house. if we look at some of the tweets in particular which president trump has put out this week, it suggests a patients, —— and impatience and a need to act. at one point he said within 2a hours, of course that timeframe has 110w hours, of course that timeframe has now passed. i wonder what you make of the different influences around him and what they might be feeding into the conversation, as they weigh up into the conversation, as they weigh
up which action to take? obviously there are a number of domestic issues, considering the ongoing investigation over the russia probe which is weighing heavily on the mind of the president and his associates. there is also the new book out by former at the eye directorjames comey, which is making waves in the media. —— fbi director. there are too many things on the domestic front which he needs to keep in mind, because obviously these airstrikes cannot be conducted without some looking into how they will impact him domestically. on the international front, as will impact him domestically. on the internationalfront, as i mentioned, there are the russians, which the united states is dealing with. the turks, the iranians, the saudis, the israelis. all of these factors are being considered as the president and his administration move forward in terms of actually executing the stated goal mark of a military
response to the use of chemical weapons. doctor cameron buchari, from the centre for global policy, thank you very much. the president of ecuador has confirmed that two ecuadorian journalists and their driver have been killed by an insurgent group in colombia. president lenin moreno had given the group 12 hours to offer proof of life before security forces would take action. the three employees of ecuador‘s el comercio newspaper were kidnapped along the country's conflictive border with colombia. they had reportedly been investigating a rise in drug—fuelled violence along ecuador‘s northern border. the bbc‘s south america correspondent, katy watson is in lima, in neighbouring peru. the president had given 12 hours to the rebel group to give some proof of life. he flew back to ecuador last night, cutting short his stay here in lima. he is here for the summit of the americas. he gave an emotional speech, at some point crying, talking about the fact that
the country was in mourning. he also said there was a need to unite in peace. this is of course a difficult time for both ecuador and colombia, and the border region along the two nations is a difficult one. ever since the peace deal in 2016, between farc guerrillas and the government, there have been some dissident groups that didn't take pa rt dissident groups that didn't take part in that agreement. so that area of drug trafficking is very sensitive. yeah, you mentioned the deal between the colombian government and the farc rebels. much was made of that peace deal which was made of that peace deal which was reached after several decades. if people are still being kidnapped and murdered, has it actually made any difference? well, it has made a difference in the fact that it has ended 50 years of conflict. the majority of farc rebels have disarmed. it is only a very small minority who decided not to go along with the agreement. so it is
momentous in that respect, and that the farc rebels have begun to be reintegrated in terms of politics. it doesn't stop the problem. if there is a drug trafficking problem there is a drug trafficking problem there is a problem of violence and doctrinal gangs. that is something colombia is still battling. —— criminal gangs. the uk government's national security advisor says moscow had been spying on sergei skripal and his daughter yulia, for at least five years before they were poisoned in salisbury last month. in a letter to nato sir mark sedwill also says russian military intelligence trained "special units" how to use nerve agents and apply them to door handles. the police have said a nerve agent was found on sergei skripal‘s front door. this report from our security correspondent, gordon corera. nearly six weeks on, police cordons are still in place in salisbury, as the investigation continues. today, thought, the government provided new details to press its case that russia was responsible. we already knew that the highest concentration of the nerve agent was found on the front door handle of sergei skripal‘s home, but today, in a letter to nato allies, britain's national security
adviser, mark sedwill, said that in the 2000s russia began a programme to train special units, and this programme subsequently included investigation of ways of delivering nerve agents, including by application to door handles. mr sedwill also claimed that yulia skripal had her e—mail hacked by russian military intelligence, the gru, at least as far back as 2013. her father was seen by the gru as a traitor because he had spied for britain. some of these new details come from secret intelligence, collected in part by mi6. there had been a debate amongst officials about how much could be released, but the view at the highest levels was that it is important to provide as much as possible to try and convince doubters at home and abroad. this afternoon, russia's ambassador in london was dismissive of the investigation.
the investigation is conducted in the most non—transparent way. the british government refuse to co—operate at all with the russian authorities. today's letter provides no smoking gun, but officials will hope that it supports the case that russia had the means and the motive, even if it does not convince all of the doubters. gordon corera, bbc news. new research has reinforced the evidence that excessive drinking could take years off your life. the study, published in the medicaljournal, the lancet, warns that regularly drinking more than the weekly recommended amount of alcohol increases the risk of strokes and heart failure. our correspondent charlotte gallagher has more. a glass of wine or pint of beer is how many people like to relax after a long, stressful day. but new
research says regularly drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol could take years off your life. researchers compare the health and drinking habits of around 600,000 drinkers in 19 countries across the world. they concluded that people shouldn't have more than five pints of beer or five 175 millilitre glasses of wine each week. drinking more than that was linked to lower life expectancy. having ten or more drinks could take one to two years off your life, while having 18 drinks or more could ta ke while having 18 drinks or more could take 11—5 years. the british heart foundation, which part funded the study, says drinking too much can lead to serious health problems. we mustn't forget that drinking too much also has an affect on your risk of cancer and other diseases like liver disease. it is not only your heart health that you need to think about. it is your overall risk of dying is increased. the take—home message for people, if you think you
are drinking too much, you need to start thinking about drinking less. since 2016 people in britain have been advised to have no more than 1a units of alcohol each week. around six drinks. the british heart foundation says the results are a sobering wake—up call with —— for countries with much higher limits, and warns that many people in the uk drinka lot and warns that many people in the uk drink a lot more than the recommended amount. don't forget, you can get in touch with me and some of the team on twitter. i'm @benmbland. if you would like more on the stories we have covered and others as well, you can find those on the bbc news website, or if you are out and about, you can also download the bbc news app. this is bbc news. thank you for watching. well, we've got some big changes on
the way on the weather front. in the short term it is still cloudy and you might need the umbrella across the course of the weekend. summarised the weekend. warming up, particularly in the south, plenty of bright weather around this weekend, at times we will need our umbrellas. after the weekend, that is when we see the really big change. just a quick outlook now for the next few days. a kink in thejet quick outlook now for the next few days. a kink in the jet stream quick outlook now for the next few days. a kink in thejet stream here diving south and then back north again on the side of the atlantic means all of warm air in the southern climes here, from spain and portugal and france, will be pushed in our direction portugal and france, will be pushed in ourdirection and portugal and france, will be pushed in our direction and we will start to see those temperatures climbing, probably peaking in the middle of the week as they reach around 2a degrees across the southern half of the uk, into the low 20s further north. but that is next week. in the short term, saturday morning for many of us will start fairly cloudy. brighter weather developing later on. here are the early hours of
saturday, then. quite a lot of cloud across the uk. mist and fog patches around as well. it is dry. temperatures around six degrees in edinburgh. seven degrees also on the south coast. weather you are in the north or south it will not make an awful lot of difference. as we go through saturday morning lots of that cloud will be breaking up. lots of bright if not sunny weather will develop. there is a chance of one or two showers drifting out of france and affecting south—eastern areas, but you are unlikely to catch them. temperatures comfortably getting up to about 18 degrees in the south—east. a big difference on the north sea coast. it has been cold and cloudy over the last few days. those temperatures will be rising. how about the grand national? temperatures getting to about 1k at aintree, with partly cloudy skies. as we head into the second half of the weekend, that is when the change comes in. low pressure will briefly upset the weather across western
areas of the uk. stronger winds here. a little bit of rain. certainly cloud at the very least. that is that rain on sunday morning affecting south—western parts of england, into wales. a few showers further east and in central parts of the country as well. probably the best of the weather in the north and the north—east of scotland. relatively warm winds coming in, maybe a bit of a dip from saturday, but not an awful lot. 15— 16 celsius. as we head into next week, those temperatures keep climbing. 20 degrees in edinburgh, and in london, quite possibly 2a celsius. have a great weekend. this is bbc news, the headlines. the un secretary general has said that the middle east is in chaos and the cold war is "back with a vengeance", warning that tensions over syria could lead the world to a full—blown military escalation. the uk's national security advisor has said russian intelligence agencies have been spying on poison victims sergei and yulia skripal for at least five years before they were poisoned with a nerve agent in salisbury in march. president trump has lashed out at former fbi director,
james comey, using twitter to call him a ‘weak and untruthful slime ball‘. mr comey, who was sacked by the president, had earlier published extracts from his new memoir in which he likens mr trump to a mafia boss. the president of ecuador has confirmed the deaths of two journalists and their driver who were captured in columbia last who were captured in colombia month, by former members of the farc guerillas. now on bbc news it's time for the travel show.