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World

Damascus' use of chemical weapons a 'barefaced lie'
AFP
Moscow, April 27, 2013
First Published: 18:59 IST(27/4/2013)
Last Updated: 22:05 IST(27/4/2013)

US and British accusations that the regime in Damascus may have used chemical weapons on rebels are a "barefaced lie," Syria's information minister said on Saturday.


"First of all, I want to confirm that statements by the US secretary of state and British government are inconsistent with reality and a barefaced lie," Omran al-Zohbi said in an interview published on Russia's RT news website.

"I want to stress one more time that Syria would never use it -- not only because of its adherence to the international law and rules of leading war, but because of humanitarian and moral issues," Zohbi said in comments published in English on the Kremlin-funded website.

US President Barack Obama on Friday warned Syria that proof of the use of chemical weapons would be a "game changer," after the US, Israel and Britain all cited possible signs that the regime had used the deadly nerve agent sarin.

In comments on Saturday at a meeting in Moscow with Russian deputy speaker of the upper house of parliament, Ilyas Umakhanov, the Syrian minister linked the chemical weapons accusations to what he said was the recent military success of government forces.

"I want to give you joy: there are qualitative changes on the battlefields. The uproar from the Americans that has arisen in the last 48 hours is due to this," he was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency in comments translated into Russian.

Zohbi on Friday alleged that chemical weapons were used by rebels and originated in Turkey.

"The rocket flew from a place that is controlled by terrorists and is not far from Turkish soil. One can suggest that the arms were brought in from Turkey," Zobhi said at a news conference in comments translated into Russian and published by the Interfax news agency.

United Nations chief Ban Ki-Moon has called on Syria to approve a UN mission of inspectors to probe the alleged use of chemical weapons in the spiralling two-year conflict which has left more than 70,000 dead.

But Zohbi told RT that the Syrian government could not trust UN inspectors from Britain and the United States.

"We do not trust the American and British experts from a political point of view," Zobhi said.

"We also do not trust their qualifications. Their aim is to juggle with facts."

He added that the Syrian government would accept Russian inspectors.

"We won't mind if Russians would be among the experts, quite the contrary, we only welcome this idea. We are quite sure in their high qualification and ability to clearly see into such matters," he said.

Along with China, Russia has blocked several UN Security Council draft resolutions threatening sanctions against Bashar Al-Assad's regime.

Claims that chemical weapons have been used in Syria should not become a pretext for a foreign military intervention in the country, Russia's deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov, who is President Vladimir Putin's Middle East envoy, said on Saturday.

"We need to check out the accuracy of this information right away according to international criteria, but not in order to use this information to achieve other aims," said Bogdanov, during a visit to Beirut, cited by Interfax.

"It must not become an alibi for intervention in Syria."


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