Assad blamed for chemical attack, Kirchner’s family indictment and Elkann’s gamble

UN war crimes investigators launch a probe into a suspected chemical attack in Syria

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Western powers, Syrian opposition activists and others have accused Bashar al-Assad of carrying out a suspected chemical attack, killing at least 70. UN war crimes investigators have already launched a probe and the UN Security Council will hold an emergency session on Wednesday to discuss the strike. Images of victims — including many small children — have prompted widespread condemnation around the world. Donald Trump added his voice to the chorus but blamed his predecessor, Barack Obama for not intervening more aggressively in the civil war — contradicting his own advice to stay out of the conflict. Meanwhile, Russia, which supports Mr Assad in the conflict, insists that the poisoned gas had leaked from a rebel chemical weapons depot.

It is not the first time chemical weapons have been deployed in Syria. In 2013, sarin nerve gas was used in an attack in Ghouta, an area outside Damascus. At least 500 people were killed. A subsequent UN investigation was not asked to ascertain responsibility for the attack but research by Human Rights Watch showed that the sarin-carrying missiles came from a regime military base in Damascus. (FT, Haaretz, Reuters, NYT, BBC, HRW )

In the news

Missile fired In its latest provocative gesture, North Korea fired a missile into the Sea of Japan on Wednesday morning. The provocative launch came ahead of a much-heralded meeting between the leaders of the US and China — and days after Donald Trump said the US was prepared to take unilateral action to tackle the Pyongyang threat. The missile test is likely to exacerbate what are expected to be tense talks between the two leaders. (FT, NAR, NYT)

Brexit deadline slippage Theresa May suggested that Britain will not finalise a new trade agreement with the EU until after Brexit is complete in 2019, appearing to concede that a deal can only be struck after the UK leaves. She has also acknowledged that unrestricted EU migration will probably continue after the UK leaves the EU in what she calls “an implementation phase”. (FT)

French presidential marathon Early polls suggest that far-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon won the marathon three-hour debate with all 11 presidential candidates on Tuesday night. Independent candidate Emmanuel Macron still stole the headlines, accusing far-right candidate Marine Le Pen of wanting to provoke an “economic war”. (FT)

Keeping it in the family Argentina’s former president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, has been indicted on corruption-related charges. It is not the first time that Mrs Kirchner has faced charges since she stepped down but this time there is a twist: her children, Máximo and Florencia, are included. (NYT)

The Brexit no one voted for Geologists have identified what they say was the most important event in 1m years of British history — when Britain first broke away from Europe some 450,000 years ago. (FT)

Egypt’s torturers identified The mother of Giulio Regeni, the student who was brutally tortured and murdered in the Egyptian capital in 2016, has revealed that her family now knows who killed her son, who she says was killed in an area controlled by one of the country’s security agencies. Italian prosecutors have doggedly pursued the case in the face of denial and obfuscation by the Egyptian authorities. (Mada Masr)

It’s a big day for

Brexit The European Parliament is to vote on a resolution that sets out the assembly’s terms for an EU-UK Brexit agreement, a legal requirement for an orderly UK departure from the EU. Tony Barber writes that the British government would be wise to pay attention. (FT)

Keep up with the important business, economic and political stories in the coming days with the FT’s Week Ahead.

Food for thought

The power of quinoa Jean-Luc Mélenchon has waged one of the most innovative campaigns in the French presidential election, using video games and holograms and hailing the power of quinoa. And it has worked. Last month, the far-left candidate — who wants to soak the rich with a 100 per cent top rate of income tax — was fifth in the polls. Now he is within touching distance of François Fillon, the centre-right candidate currently in third place. (FT)

Agnelli heir’s gamble John Elkann, the 41-year-old scion of the Italian business dynasty, is transforming Exor, the €12bn family investment business he inherited in 2011, taking it far from its roots both in Italy and in industry. (FT)

China’s Trump? He made his fortune in real estate. He loves Twitter. He has been openly critical of the Communist party. Lately, he has been spending a lot of time in Florida, at a golf resort called Mar-a-Lago. Meet Guo Wengui — who could conceivably show up at the seaside resort during the meeting between Xi Jinping and Donald Trump this week. (NYT)

The ‘Hacienda hedge’ It’s time. Year after year, Mexico places a multi-billion-dollar bet on a deal that big banks lust after. A read on the secret history of Wall Street’s largest oil trade. (Bloomberg)

House always wins Japan, the world’s third-biggest economy, is opening up to casino gambling. It is a market that could be worth $25bn a year. The question is, out of Japan and the overseas casino operators, who actually gets to be the house? (FT)

Video of the day

Time for German leadership Rob Armstrong gives the FT View on how the relationship between the EU’s strongest economy and the rest of the world needs to change. (FT)

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