Syria’s Assad: Chemical attack was fabrication
DAMASCUS, Syria — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad dismissed reports last week’s chemical weapons attack — widely blamed on his regime — as “100%” fabrication.
In an interview with news agency AFP, conducted under restrictions imposed by the Syrian government at the presidential palace in Damascus, Assad claimed the reported details of what happened were not credible because their source was al-Qaeda’s former affiliate in Syria, Nusra Front.
The entire incident was “fabricated” and “unconvincing,” he claimed.
Eighty-nine people were killed and others injured in the April 4 chemical attack in Idlib province. The United States, Turkey and other Western states have blamed the Assad regime for the deaths.
CNN interviewed victims of the attack, who fled to nearby Turkey, who recounted the horrific aftermath of a gas attack, saying the town of Khan Sheikhoun was struck by regime warplanes.
Syria and its most powerful ally, Russia, have vehemently denied the accusations, saying that terrorist groups were behind the deaths. But several experts have said that only the Syrian regime is likely to have stockpiles of Sarin gas.
The interview with AFP’s Damascus bureau chief took place on Wednesday. Severe restrictions were placed on the news agency. It was not allowed to film the interview itself; instead, the encounter was filmed by the Syrian presidency. Only footage of first five questions asked by the interviewer was provided to AFP.
Assad: US ‘hand-in-glove’ with terrorists
Asked if he had ordered the chemical weapons attack, Assad said the Syrian military had no chemical weapons and that it would not use them if it did.
“We gave up our arsenal three years ago,” he said. “We have never used our chemical arsenal in our history.”
He added that “morally” the Syrian government would never do this “because it’s not acceptable.”
Assad accused the West, particularly the United States, of being “hand-in-glove with the terrorists” over the Khan Sheikhoun incident. “They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack,” he said, referring to the US missile strike.
Assad said no proper investigation had been possible because the area was controlled by Nusra Front.
But the UK Ministry of Defence and Turkish authorities say they have carried out tests on samples which provide evidence that Sarin or a similar substance was used.
US ‘defending ISIS’
Assad also accused the United States of defending ISIS.
“Some of their statements were defending ISIS. They said ISIS does not have chemical weapons. They are defending ISIS against the Syrian government and the Syrian army,” he said.
“You cannot talk about partnership between us, who are fighting the terrorists and others who are supporting explicitly the terrorists,” he added.
“If they are serious in fighting terrorists, we will be partners. Not only the United States, whoever wants to target terrorists, we are partners,” he said.