By Mark Moore – New York Post
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad called claims that he used deadly sarin gas on his people a “100 percent fabrication” and insisted the US worked “hand-in-glove” with terrorists to carry out the attacks, he said in an interview published Thursday.
The Syrian strongman said he couldn’t have unleashed a poison gas strike on innocent civilians because the country has gotten rid of its chemical weapons arsenal.
“Definitely, 100 percent for us. It’s fabrication. We don’t have an arsenal. We’re not going to use it,” he told Agence France-Presse.
He said the attack was contrived by the US so it could launch an attack against Syria.
“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,” Assad said.
He said if Syria had chemical weapons, it would have used them against the “terrorists” who were advancing near the capital, Damascus.
“Let’s suppose we have this arsenal and let’s suppose that we have the will to use it, why didn’t we use it when we were retreating and the terrorists were advancing,” Assad said.
The US said it has “no doubt” Syria was behind the gas attack on the town of Sheikhoun that killed 87 people on April 4. Two days later, the US launched a cruise missile strike on a Syrian airfield where the planes that carried out the attack were based.
Assad said the only evidence of the attack came from “a branch of al-Qaeda” the terror group that operates in the rebel-held region where Sheikhoun is located. And he dismissed the the disturbing video footage that showed people, including women and children, gasping for breath, foaming at the mouth and suffering convulsions from the effects of the gas.
He said such visual evidence doesn’t make it “clear whether it happened or not. Because how can you verify a video? You have a lot of fake videos now,” he said. “We don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhoun,” the tyrant said. “Were they dead at all?” Assad repeated his claims that he doesn’t possess chemical weapons because they were turned them over to Russia in 2013 in a deal the Kremlin negotiated with the Obama administration to hold off 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,” Assad said, adding: “Even if we have them, we wouldn’t use them, and we have never used our chemical arsenal in our history.”
But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, during a joint news conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, said Assad has used chemical weapons at least 50 times during Syria’s six-year civil war.
“This is just the latest in a series of the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime,” Tillerson said of the April 4 attak. ” Notwithstanding their use in more than 50 occasions of chlorine bombs, cluster bombs and other types of weapons that are intended to main and kill in the most horrific ways.”
Last week’s attack was believed the worse since the Syrian military used chemical weapons in August 2013 to kill more than 1,400 civilians.
Assad said he could only support an investigation into the Sheikhoun attacks if it was “impartial” and “when we make sure that unbiased countries will participate in this delegation in order to make sure that they won’t use it for politicized purposes.”
United Nations Security Council offered a resolution on Wednesday requiring an investigation, but Russia used its veto power to defeat it.