Thursday, August 22, 2013

Chemical warhead targeted eastern suburbs of Syria's Damascus - Russian Foreign Ministry

Photo: EPA
Chemical warhead targeted eastern suburbs of Syria's Damascus - Russian Foreign Ministry
Aug 21, 2013 | The Voice of Russia

The missile with a chemical poison gas sarine was launched by Syrian rebels and targeted the eastern suburbs of Damascus. This is according to the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich.
"Early morning of August 21, a homemade rocket carrying an unknown chemical warfare agent was launched on the eastern suburbs of Damascus. The missile resembled the rocket which was used by the rebels on March 19 in Khan al-Asal," said Lukashevich.

"Moscow believes it is important to carry out an objective and professional investigation of what happened", the diplomat continued. "It looks like an attempt to create a pretext for the UN Security Council to side with the opponents of Assad's regime and thus undermine Geneva-2 talks which are now scheduled for August 28".

"Once again we urge all those who have the opportunity to influence the armed extremists to make every effort to put an end to provocations with the use of chemical agents," Lukashevich asserted.

Noteworthy is the fact that "the biased regional media immediately, as if on demand, began an aggressive information attack, placing the responsibility for the attaks on Assad's government. All of this can only suggest that we are dealing with a pre-planned provocation," Lukashevich sttaed.

"This is supported by the fact that the criminal act was committed near Damascus at the very moment when UN investigators began their work in Syria", the diplomat concluded.

Information that Syrian authorities used chemical weapons resembles a provocation planned in advanced, says Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich.

"The fact that agenda-driven regional mass media have begun an aggressive attack at once, as if on command, laying all responsibility on the government, draws attention," the ministry quoted Lukashevich as saying in a statement on Wednesday.

"It is apparently no coincidence that information like this regarding the authorities using chemical weapons has been thrown in before, including in the past days, citing some opposition sources, however it was not confirmed later," Lukashevich said.

"All this can only lead us to think that we are dealing again with a provocation planned in advance," Lukashevich said.

"The fact that the criminal action near Damascus was carried out just when the mission of UN experts to investigate the statements on possible chemical weapons use there has successfully begun its work in Syria points to this," the statement said.

"Moscow thinks that it is important to hold an objective and professional investigation of what has happened," Lukashevich said.

"We are urging again all those who have the opportunity to influence armed extremists to make every effort to put an end to provocations with the use of poisonous chemical substances," the statement said.

"In the past days, the governmental forces carried out intense activity against militants on various fronts, including the eastern suburbs of Damascus," Lukashevich said.

"A home-made rocket with a poisonous chemical substance yet unknown, the same as one the terrorists used in Khan al-Assal on March 19, struck this area early on August 21 from a position taken by insurgents. Casualties among civilians are reported," Lukashevich said.

Media reports that the government forces allegedly used chemical weapons near Damascus are not true and aimed at confusing international observers, Syrian Ambassador to Russia Riyad Haddad said.

"This is not true," Haddad told Interfax on Wednesday when commenting on the reports. "All reports regarding this issue are false and aimed at confusing international observers," the diplomat said.

The Syrian forces have never used, do not use and will not use chemical weapons even if they had them," Haddad said.

"All reports on this topic are aimed at repeating the Iraqi scenario in Syria where there were allegedly weapons of mass destruction," he said.

After the information regarding the use of chemical weapons in the city of Khan al-Assal on March 19 emerged, Syria asked the UN to investigate these reports, Haddad said.

"But there was an attempt to politicize this investigation by one of the superpowers supporting terrorists in our country," he said.

After Damascus agreed to allow UN observers to investigate the March incident, terrorists committed a massacre in northern Syria, which claimed the lives of 450 Kurds, Haddad said.

The members of the UN committee investigating incidents of chemical weapons use arrived in Syria on August 18.

Dubai TV channel Al Arabiya has informed that the Syrian troops had allegedly bombarded the suburbs of Damascus with missiles containing toxic chemical substances. 200 or 500 victims are reported. There is no evidence of these reports and the information seems to be another monstrous provocation on the part of the channel, which is financed by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE. Al Arabiya, created in 2003, was repeatedly accuses of lying.

In February, the channel reported that Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Syria, Faisal al-Miqdad allegedly fled from Damascus to the UAE.

Since then, al-Miqdad, who occupies his previous post, has dozens of times met with foreign journalists in Damascus, held press conferences and given interviews to CNN.

More than 1,300 people have been killed in a chemical weapons attack near Damascus, according to the Syrian opposition.

A leading Syrian opposition figure said on Wednesday 1,300 people had been killed in attacks by President Bashar al-Assad's forces around Damascus in which he said chemical weapons had been used.

"Today's crimes are...not the first time the regime has used chemical weapons," George Sabra told a news conference in Istanbul. "But they constitute a significant turning point in the regime's operations...This time it was for annihilation rather than terror."

Syria denied activist reports on Wednesday that the army had used chemical weapons, describing the assertions as completely untrue. Video footage from districts east of the capital showed people choking, some of them foaming at the mouth, and many bodies with no signs of injuries.

A Damascus opposition monitoring group said on Wednesday 494 people had been killed in a gas attack and shelling by President Bashar al-Assad's forces on Wednesday, citing data from medical centres in the Syrian capital.

Syria has denied reports of chemical weapons being used in Damascus.

The Damascus Media Office said in a statement 150 bodies were counted in Hammouriya, 100 in Kfar Batna, 67 in Saqba, 61 in Douma, 76 in Mouadamiya and 40 bodies were collected from Irbib.

"The attack began at around 3.00 am. Huge numbers of civilians were subjected to the gases. The numbers continued to increase rapidly as they suffocated to death, with lack of necessary medical supplies to save them," the statement said.

French President Francois Hollande is calling on UN inspectors to visit the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack outside Damascus, government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said Wednesday.

During a cabinet session, Hollande "announced his intention to ask the UN to visit the site of the attack," she told reporters, adding: "This information obviously requires verification and confirmation."

The Arab League called Wednesday on UN chemical weapons inspectors now inside Syria to immediately visit the site of an alleged new chemical weapons attack outside Damascus.

Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi urged the inspectors in a statement to "go immediately to Eastern Ghouta to see the reality of the situation and investigate the circumstances of this crime."

Syria denied reports on Wednesday that chemical weapons had been used in an attack on the eastern suburbs of Damascus which activists said killed more than 200 people.

State television quoted a source as saying there was "no truth whatsover" to the reports, which it said were aimed at distracting a visiting team of United Nations chemical weapons experts from their mission.

"The reports are untrue that chemical weapons were used in Al- Gotta Al-Sharakiyeh, and what is being aired by television like Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera and others only supports terrorism and is an attempt to obstruct the mission of the UN experts of chemical weapons to Syria," the official Syrian news agency, SANA, reports.

It dismissed as "unfounded" the reports from opposition activists carried by Al-Jazeera, Sky and other satellite news channels "which are implicated in the shedding of Syrian blood and support terrorism."

"It's an attempt to prevent the UN commission of inquiry from carrying out its mission," SANA said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, meanwhile, said an army operation launched early on Wednesday against rebel forces in the Ghouta suburbs had left at least 100 dead.

A security source in Damascus rejected as "lies" the reports of chemical weapons use in an army drive against rebel strongholds in the suburbs of Damascus.

"There is nothing new happening here because there's fighting every day. Operations are under way in all regions to chase armed groups," he said.

Al-Watan newspaper, meanwhile, reported the government had "pledged to cooperate and facilitate the work" of the UN chemical inspectors who launched a mission in the country on Tuesday.

Syrian activists accused forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday of using chemical agents during the heavy bombardment of rebel-held areas around Damascus.

The reported use of the chemical agents could not be immediately verified. It coincides with a visit to Damascus by a United Nations team of chemical weapons experts.

The incident reportedly took place in Ghouta, on the green agricultural belt territory surrounding the Syrian capital.

The news emerged on the day UN inspectors arrive in Damascus to examine suspected cases of chemical weapons use in the war-torn country.

There was no government comment on the claims and the reports could not be independently confirmed.

The UN received some 13 reports of alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria and the UN inspectors will be investigating the “allegations” of chemical weapons use, rather than determining who was behind the attacks.

In July, Russia submitted to the UN its analysis of samples taken west of Aleppo. Russia’s findings indicated that it was rebels behind the Khan al-Assal incident, in which more than 30 people died.

The US contradicted the Russian findings, stressing they had their own data which proved that the government forces were behind the attack. However, Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the UN commission’s inquiry into rights violations in Syria, said the evidence provided by the US did not meet required standards.

Syrian authorities and rebels have accused each other of using chemical agents in the course of the civil war, in which 100,000 people have been killed.

Voice of Russia, Reuters, RT, Sky News, AFP, Interfax

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