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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

People's Daily Online

Syria FM confirms airstrike on rebel depot containing chemical weapons

People's Daily Online

(Xinhua) 20:07, April 06, 2017

Syria's Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said on Thursday that the Syrian airstrike on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun struck a rebel depot containing chemical materials, denying that the air force fired toxic gas during the attack.

In a press conference held to comment on the international accusation to Syria of allegedly firing toxic gas on Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib Province on Tuesday, al-Moallem said the news reports are "lies."

He said it's not logical to use chemical weapons at a time when the Syrian government was optimistic that the international community was becoming closer to realizing the size of conspiracy on Syria.

He questioned how come world powers were so quick to hurl accusation at the Syrian government, just an hour after the attack.

The minister repeated his government's denying line that "the Syrian army forces haven't and will not use chemical weapons," and that the forces are no longer in possession of such weapons.

Al-Moallem said al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front and like-minded groups have been storing chemical materials they brought into Syria from Iraq.

Meanwhile, the minister said there were probably several reasons behind the accusation.

The first is to reverse the opinion of U.S. President Donald Trump, who said after the attack that his opinion toward the Syrian government has changed, after previous remarks by the U.S. administration that toppling President Bashar al-Assad was no longer a priority.

The second reason, al-Moallem said, is to exert pressure on Russia, which has failed after Moscow said it will continue to aid the Syrian army in the fight against terrorist groups.

The third reason is to exert pressure on Damascus, which he said has also failed as the Syrian government will not change its approach to fighting terrorism and will work on political solution at the same time.

The minister said a change in the stance that Trump talked of could have been achieved by the attack.

"I realize the seriousness of the American remarks and maybe their aim is to practice pressure on the Russian and Chinese sides toward the UN draft resolution" put forward on Wednesday, he said.

The draft resolution, proposed by United States, France and Britain, called on Syria to provide flight plans, flight logs and other information on its military operations on the day of the assault.

Damascus would be asked to provide the names of all commanders of helicopter squadrons to UN investigators and allow them to meet with generals and other high-ranking officials within five days of their request, the draft resolution said.

According to the draft, Syria would also allow UN and Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) teams to visit air bases from which the attacks involving chemical weapons may have been launched.

It also threatened to impose sanctions under chapter seven of the UN charter. Russia rejected the draft resolution.

About the possibility of forming an international probing mission to investigate the attack, the minister said the mission should be organized and not politicized and "then there will be nothing wrong with that."

He added that his government is fully coordinating with the Russian side.

In October 2013, OPCW officials arrived in Syria to monitor the dismantlement of the Syrian chemical weapons arsenal, after Damascus officially joined the organization.

The OPCW later said the Syrian government has made its chemical weapon production facilities inoperable.

The dismantlement came after a U.S.-Russian understanding, the first of its kind between the two powers on the Syrian conflict.

Since then, reports of poisonous gas attacks have kept emerging once in a while.

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