Syria’s military command denies chemical weapon use

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Syria’s military command denies chemical weapon use


KUWAIT CITY, August 21 (Itar-Tass) – Syria’s military   command denied the opposition’s claims that the government   troops had used chemical weapons on the outskirts of   Damascus.

Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said such claims on   the part of the opposition were illogical and had been   fabricated.

Earlier in the day, the Syrian authorities denied Arab   and Western media reports which claimed that chemical   weapons had been used in the eastern suburb of Damascus.

“Reports about the use of chemical weapons in the   Syrian capital’s suburb have nothing in common with the   truth,” a government official said.

Volunteers working for the International Committee of   the Red Cross (ICRC) in Syria said they had no access to   the place where chemical weapons had allegedly been used.

“We have not travelled to Eastern Ghouta [outside   Damascus] where this reportedly happened. We have not been   able to get there for several months even though people   there are in dire need of aid,” an ICRC official said.

“We cannot make any conclusion as to whether chemical   weapons were used in Syria or not because we have not seen   the results of any thorough investigation,” he said.

Some Arab mass media reported that 20 to 500 people had   been killed as a result of the chemical attack. However   these are unconfirmed reports coming from the armed   opposition.

The attack occurred in Damascus’ suburbs of Ain Tarma,   Jubar and Zamalkh, where the nerve gas sarin was used.

However Syrian Ambassador to Russia Riyad Haddad told   ITAR-TASS that these reports were false and aimed at   repeating the “Iraqi scenario” in Syria.

“Our Armed Forces have never used chemical weapons and   all fabricated concoctions in this respect aim to disorient   international observers and defocus their efforts in   achieving the set goals,” he said.

“It is no secret for anyone that all these   falsifications that appear from time to time about the use   of chemical weapons are nothing but an attempt to repeat   the scenario that was used in the past with regard to   weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” the ambassador said.

He recalled that chemical weapons “were used by armed   terrorist groups in Khan al-Asal on March 19, 2013 and   Syria urgently asked the United Nations to send   international commissions to investigate this incident, but   countries that support terrorism in Syria have politicised   this issue,” Haddad said.

The diplomat said the terrorists were taking effort to   cover up their activities. “We all remember that armed   terrorist groups organised a horrible massacre in the same   town again on July 26, killing more than 50 innocent   people. This happened after Syria had agreed to receive an   international commission to investigate the use of chemical   weapons. The purpose of that massacre was to destroy all   witnesses of the use of chemical weapons in Khan al-Asal on   March 19,” he said.

Haddad noted that “Syria has not used and will never   use” chemical weapons.

U.N. chemical weapons experts started working in Syria   on Monday, August 19.

The team will work in Syria for up to two weeks. This   period can be extended by mutual consent, Ban said.

“The Mission will contemporaneously investigate the   alleged use of chemical weapons reported by the Government   of Syria at Khan al-Asal as well as two other allegations   of the use of chemical weapons reported by Member States,”   U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said.

“In order to credibly establish the facts, the Mission   must have full access to the sites of the alleged   incidents. This includes access to the reported sites to   undertake the necessary analyses and to collect samples. It   also includes interviews and examination of witnesses,   victims, attending medical personnel as well as the conduct   of post-mortem examinations,” the secretary-general said.

On August 14, Syria agreed to receive U.N. inspectors   for a probe into the alleged use of chemical weapons in the   country. By agreement with the Syrian government they will   investigate three such instances at the same time.

The spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary-General, Martin   Nesirky, said in early August that apart from its leader,   Swedish Professor Ake Sellstrom, the team of inspectors   would include about 10 experts from the Organisation for   the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the World Health   Organisation.

By agreement with the official Syrian authorities, the   U.N. Mission will run its investigation in three places.   They have not been named so far. The U.N. Secretariat has   cited security reasons for not disclosing the details of   the upcoming investigation of the purported use of chemical   weapons in Syria for security reasons.

However one of the places to be visited by the U.N.   experts is already known. It is Aleppo’s suburb of Khan   Al-Asal. The other two have not been revealed.

The U.N. Secretariat has already received 13 reports   about the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

The focus of the mission, set up following a formal   request from the Syrian government, will be an incident   involving the alleged use of chemical weapons in Kfar Dael   region in Khan Al-Asal area in Aleppo governorate, the U.N.   said.

Ban had repeatedly urged Damascus to grant the team   access to the country so that it can carry out an   on-the-ground investigation into the allegations. He   welcomed Damascus’ invitation to visit Syria to investigate   reports about alleged use of chemical weapons in the   country.

“The Secretary-General welcomes the offer of the   Government of Syria to continue discussions on the United   Nations Mission to Investigate Allegations of the Use of   Chemical Weapons in the Syrian Arab Republic. He remains   seriously concerned about all allegations on the use of   chemical weapons in Syria,” Nesirky said.

“Cooperation from Syria in this regard will be   essential for the Mission to establish facts in a credible   manner regarding any use of chemical weapons in Syria,”   Nesirky said.

The U.N. probe into an alleged chemical attack in   Aleppo, started at Damascus’ initiative, came to a halt   after Western countries had pushed the U.N. Secretariat   towards looking into other such instances as well. The   Syrian authorities had insisted that U.N. experts should   first visit Aleppo and only then, if they prove their   impartiality, could they investigate other instances. As a   result of the explosion of a homemade rocket with sarin in   the area controlled by governmental troops near Aleppo on   March 19 of this year, 26 people died, including 16 Syrian   army troops. The rest were civilians.


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