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U.S., Syria cautious on alleged chemical weapons use to avoid worsening situation


08:56, April 28, 2013

WASHINGTON/DAMASCUS, April 27 (Xinhua) -- U.S. allegations about the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army in some areas of the Mideastern country "do not have any credibility," Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said Friday.

Al-Zoubi's remarks came a day after the White House said the Syrian government has used chemical weapons in its conflict with the opposition forces.

"The U.S. intelligence community assesses with some degree of varying confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin," the White House said in a letter sent to some members of the Congress.

Observers say Washington for the first time accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons against rebel forces, but it is not very sure about the allegation.

Both Washington and Damascus are cautious about the alleged use of chemical weapons as they want to avoid a misjudgment to prevent the situation in Syria from getting worse, observers say.


On the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army, Washington and Damascus are uncompromising with each other.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who was on a visit to Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, issued a statement on Thursday, saying he believed al-Assad's government has twice used chemical weapons on a "small scale."

He said the conclusion was made in the past 24 hours after assessment for some time, but adding that more proof was needed and that Washington was not ready to get involved in the conflict.

In response to Washington's accusation, al-Zoubi said during a visit to Moscow that the chemical weapons used by the rebels in a northern Syrian town were probably from Turkey.

He said the missile that targeted the northern town of Khan al-Assal in Aleppo province was launched from a rebel-held place, which was not far from the Turkish borders.

After Hagel's statement, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the U.N. fact-finding team is "on stand-by and ready to deploy in 24-48 hours" to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons in attacks in Syria.

Meanwhile, the Syrian government stressed that the technical team should conduct its work only at the targeted site in Khan al-Assal to investigate what it said was a chemical attack by the rebels, which killed more than 50 people and left scores of others at hospitals.

But the opposition groups in exile called on the world body not only to send a technical team but also to conduct a full investigation.


U.S. President Barack Obama has repeatedly said any use of chemical weapons would be tantamount to crossing a "red line" that could push the United States closer to military intervention in Syria.

Reiterating that stance on Friday at a White House joint press briefing with visiting Jordanian King Abdullah II, Obama called the use of chemical weapons in Syria a "game changer," but added that his administration would continue to assess the situation.

Maher Merhej, a political expert and head of the Syrian Youth Party, said Washington's allegation aims to build up pressure on Damascus to agree on any political proposal.

U.S. officials' statement also came to boost the morale of the armed rebels after they suffered heavy blows by the Syrian army, he added.

Munther Khaddam, spokesman for the oppositional National Coordination Body, also played down the U.S. claims.

"The U.S. statements about the regime's use of chemical weapons are a political card to pressure the regime," he told Xinhua.

The United States is trying to stir the chemical file as a "scarecrow" and a reminder of what happened in Iraq in 2003, Khaddam said, adding that that any military intervention would burn the entire region.

He said Washington might be willing to use this file to press both warring parties to embark on dialogue to end the crisis peacefully.

"And thus, those statements come in the context of political pressure," Khaddam said.

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