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Assad: Syria chemical attack is '100% fabrication'

Assad: Syria chemical attack is 100% fabrication
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has reiterated that his government had nothing to do with the chemical gas incident in a rebel-held village last week that killed more than 80 people.

Allegations that his forces had deliberately poisoned civilians were "100 percent fabrication'', the president said on Thursday, adding that the Syrian government gave up its chemical weapons stocks as part of a 2013 agreement.

"Our impression is that the West, mainly the United States, is hand-in-glove with the terrorists. They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack," he said.

Assad made the comments in an interview broadcast by AFP, his first since the US struck a Syrian airbase with missiles in retaliation for the events in the village of
Khan Sheikhoun.

The international community has condemned the deaths in Idlib province, which most Western intelligence services believe occurred thanks to a deliberate attack carried out by the Syrian government.

Damascus and allies in Moscow have denied the regime attacked the village with chemical weapons, maintaining that the casualties were caused by gases released after an al-Qaeda-affiliated ammunitions depot was hit by conventional munitions in a legitimate government air raid.

Neither country has provided any on-the-ground evidence to back up their claims.

The Syrian government agreed to surrender its chemical weapons stocks to an international watchdog after the deaths of hundreds in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus in 2013, although the opposition has long accused the regime of holding back some of its supply.

US President Donald Trump retaliated last Friday with a "warning shot" barrage of 59 Tomahawk missiles which struck the regime-operated Shayrat airbase near Homs — the first direct action against Assad's forces taken by the US in more than six years of the civil war. On Wednesday, Russia's representative to the United Nations vetoed a Security Council resolution condemning the attack and recommending an immediate international investigation. The draft text called on the Syrian government to provide flight plans, flight logs and other operational military information from the day of the strike.

However, Global chemical weapons investigators have gone to Turkey to collect samples as part of an inquiry into the alleged chemical weapons attack.

The fact-finding mission was sent by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague to gather bio-metric samples and interview survivors, sources told Reuters on Thursday.

Samples taken from the poison gas site in Syria's Idlib governorate tested positive for the nerve agent sarin, the British delegation at the OPCW said on Thursday.

"UK scientists have analysed samples taken from Khan Sheikhoun. These have tested positive for the nerve agent sarin, or a sarin-like substance," the delegation said a special session on Syria at the OPCW.


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