Mattis warns Syria, Russia on chemical weapons deployment
Iran Press TV
Mon Mar 12, 2018 01:23AM
US Defense Secretary James Mattis has warned the Syrian government against using chemical weapons implying it would prompt military consequences, as it did last year when US President Donald Trump ordered a strike on a Syrian air base.
"I just want to reiterate it would be very unwise for them to use weaponized gas," Mattis told reporters while en route to Oman. "And I think President Trump made that very clear early in his administration."
Speaking to reporters travelling with him on a trip to Oman, Mattis admitted he has no evidence to back up his statements. The Pentagon chief said there are many reports about Chlorine use or symptoms that could be a result of the gas.
United Nations experts are investigating reports of chlorine gas being used against civilians.
The US has been unable to verify the reports, but Mattis claimed they appeared to be credible and warranted concern. "We have made it very clear that it would be very unwise to use gas against people, civilians, on any battlefield," he said on a military jet heading for Oman on Sunday.
"The president has full political maneuver room to take the decision that he believes appropriate."
Syria's deputy foreign minister has denied charges that Syrian government forces used toxic arms in their operation against terrorist groups in Damascus' countryside. Faisal Mekdad says terrorists in eastern Ghouta are preparing to fabricate more such attacks to blame the Syrian army.
Claims of Syria's use of chemicals against civilians in Eastern Ghouta came last Wednesday when videos surfaced online allegedly showing planes dropping what was claimed to be phosphorus bombs. The videos triggered calls for a probe from Western governments. However, Russia, which has been backing Damascus in the terror fight, swiftly denied the allegations.
In an interview with Russia's Sputnik news agency released on Friday, Syria's ambassador to the United Nations Bashar Ja'afari also said that the accusations leveled by the US and its allies against the Syrian government regarding the use of chemical weapons in the Eastern Ghouta region are meant to protect the terrorist groups and block the army's advance against foreign-backed militants.
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