Syria's Assad says chemical attack '100 per cent fabrication'

Published: April 13, 2017
A handout picture released by the Syrian presidency's press office shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during an interview with AFP in the capital Damascus, on April 12, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

A handout picture released by the Syrian presidency's press office shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during an interview with AFP in the capital Damascus, on April 12, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

DAMASCUS: Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad said a suspected chemical weapons attack was a “fabrication” to justify a US strike on his forces, in an exclusive interview with AFP in Damascus.

The embattled leader, whose country has been ravaged by six years of war, said his firepower had not been affected by the attack ordered by US President Donald Trump, but acknowledged further strikes were possible.

Assad insisted his forces had turned over all their chemical weapons stocks years ago and would never use the banned arms.

The interview on Wednesday was his first since a suspected chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun.

“Definitely, 100 per cent for us, it’s fabrication,” he said of the incident.

“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,” added Assad, who has been in power for 17 years.

At least 87 people, including 31 children, were killed in the alleged attack, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

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But Assad said evidence came only from “a branch of al Qaeda,” referring to a former extremist affiliate that is among the groups that control Idlib province, where Khan Sheikhun is located.

Images of the aftermath, showing victims convulsing and foaming at the mouth, sent shockwaves around the world.

But Assad insisted it was “not clear whether it happened or not, because how can you verify a video? You have a lot of fake videos now.”

“We don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhun. Were they dead at all?”

He said Khan Sheikhun had no strategic value and was not currently a battle front.

“This story is not convincing by any means.”

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has begun an investigation into the alleged attack, but Russia on Wednesday blocked a UN Security Council resolution demanding Syria cooperate with the probe.

And Assad said he could “only allow any investigation when it’s impartial, when we make sure that unbiased countries will participate in this delegation in order to make sure that they won’t use it for politicised purposes.”

He insisted several times that his forces had turned over all chemical weapons stockpiles in 2013, under a deal brokered by Russia to avoid threatened US military action.

“There was no order to make any attack, we don’t have any chemical weapons, we gave up our arsenal a few years ago,” he said.

“Even if we have them, we wouldn’t use them, and we have never used our chemical arsenal in our history.”

The OPCW has blamed Assad’s government for at least two attacks in 2014 and 2015 involving the use of chlorine.

The Khan Sheikhun incident prompted the first direct US military action against Assad’s government since the war began, with 59 cruise missiles hitting the Shayrat airbase three days after the suspected chemical attack.

Assad said more US attacks “could happen anytime, anywhere, not only in Syria.”

But he said his forces had not been diminished by the US strike.

“Our firepower, our ability to attack the terrorists hasn’t been affected by this strike.”

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Reader Comments (15)

  • Oommen
    Apr 13, 2017 - 8:01PM

    Should have targeted factories producing …. “weapons of mass destruction”. (like in Iraq)Recommend

  • Sexton
    Apr 13, 2017 - 8:18PM

    No need for Syria to worry. President Trump appears to have a memory or perhaps geography problem, and gets confused between Syria and Iraq. We can only guess what will happen from now on. The next damp squib could go anywhere. Additionally, with a 30% accuracy rate it could finish up on the White House lawn.Recommend

  • numbersnumbers
    Apr 13, 2017 - 10:13PM

    To all commenters above!
    Please note that some of the survivors of the Khan Sheikhoun gas attack were evacuated to Turkey, where some passed away. Autopsies were performed on those, which confirmed the use of Sarin Gas in causing their deaths!
    All can search Wikipedia for “Use of chemical weapons in Syrian Civil War” for detailed reports on this, including some 94 supporting references!
    Also search Wikipedia for “List of Syrian Civil War Barrel bomb attacks” for more info on the slaughter of civilians by Team Assad!Recommend

  • Ghulam Habib
    Apr 13, 2017 - 10:32PM

    Assad is lying to cover up his brutal killings in Syria. If he were not lying, Russia would not have had to veto the UN Security Council draft on investigating the source of the use of chemical weapons. On 23 June 2014, the last declared chemical weapons were supposed to have been shipped out from Syria, as per international agreements. But Russia did not clear all the nuclear stockpiles and is complicit.
    Assad, Russia, and Iran want easy ways to crush opposition. That means using aerial bombardment with barrel bombs and chemical weapons when they can confuse the world about the source of their usage. The over 300,000 deaths could not have been possible only through land based military operations. Recommend

  • Sexton
    Apr 14, 2017 - 2:23AM

    @Ghulam Habib:
    The US dropped over 25,000 bombs, plus other ordnance, last year alone. Have they ever permitted a UN investigation? Russia has been requesting an objective investigation for some time into the gas incident. However, Russia objected to the very doubtful terms-of-reference the Western block invented.. Recommend

  • Ghulam Habib
    Apr 14, 2017 - 9:23AM

    But if Russia was serious about investigations about who used the chemical weapons in Syria it could have proposed its own terms of reference.Recommend

  • Ghulam Habib
    Apr 14, 2017 - 9:57AM

    @ET: please help me with my right to reply to someone who has written to me
    I would buy your argument if Russia would have presented its own draft and it own terms of reference for investigations.
    What US did is not relevant here.Recommend

  • So
    Apr 14, 2017 - 10:52AM

    @ Sexton How do US wrongs justify Syria’s use of chemical weapons? Or Russian obfuscation? Recommend

  • Sexton
    Apr 14, 2017 - 11:40AM

    Do you have any evidence of Syria’s so called use of chemical weapons that would stand up in a court-of-law?Recommend

  • Sexton
    Apr 14, 2017 - 11:43AM

    @Ghulam Habib:
    Russia did suggest a course of action ,but the US objected.Recommend

  • Sexton
    Apr 14, 2017 - 12:54PM

    @Ghulam Habib:
    So you and So are meekly buying the false US narrative.Recommend

  • So
    Apr 14, 2017 - 8:43PM

    So that is why we need independent investigations so we have evidence of who used chemical weapons so that punitive action might be considered by the UN.

  • Foxed
    Apr 14, 2017 - 9:16PM

    Much like you are meekly buying the false Syrian-Russian narrative.Recommend

  • Sexton
    Apr 14, 2017 - 11:37PM

    Not so. Anyone with an IQ over 60 could read every newspaper in the world explaining that the US without any proof that would stand up in a court-of-law illegally fired 59 missiles into a country which had done no harm to the US. Also Syria/Russia did not tell me that the US invaded Iraq on the pretense of weapons of mass destruction, which have still not been found, and that Madeline Albright said that 500,000 dead Iraqi children “was worth it”.Recommend

  • Foxed
    Apr 15, 2017 - 9:11PM

    Anyone, yes, within an IQ of less than 60 can see the atrocities perpetrated on the civilians by the Syrian Government, killing over 300, 000 people but idiots with no compassion are harping on legalities.Recommend

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