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      Russia 'Not Convinced' Assad Used Chemical Weapons

      Russia says it is not convinced by U..S. evidence alleging that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against rebels.
      By Elad Benari, Canada
      First Publish: 6/14/2013, 9:06 PM

      Russian President Vladimir Putin
      Russian President Vladimir Putin
      Reuters

      Russia said on Friday that is not convinced by the evidence which the U.S. provided alleging that the government of Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad used chemical weapons against rebel forces.

      “The Americans tried to present us with information on the use of chemical weapons by the regime, but frankly we thought that it was not convincing,” said presidential aide Yury Ushakov, according to the RIA Novosti news agency.

      “We wouldn’t like to invoke references to the famous lab tube that [former U.S.] Secretary of State [Colin] Powell showed, but the facts don’t look convincing in our eyes,” he added, referring to the U.S. launching a war in Iraq in 2003 after claiming there were weapons of mass destruction in the country, a fact which was later proven wrong.

      Ushakov said Moscow sees difficulties with organizing a proper investigation into the alleged cases of chemical weapon attacks in Syrian territory, which would provide more conclusive evidence on the issue.

      “We have tried on several occasions to organize it, including those occasions when information arrived that rebels were using chemical weapons. Let’s see how the situation develops,” he said, according to RIA Novosti.

      The comments came after the U.S. government announced that the Syrian army used chemical weapons against rebel forces on multiple occasions, adding that America will increase the “scope and scale” of its assistance to rebels in Syria in response.

      “The President has been clear that the use of chemical weapons – or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups – is a red line for the United States, as there has long been an established norm within the international community against the use of chemical weapons,” deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said.

      In response, Russia’s Foreign Ministry warned that additional supplies to Syrian rebels will not contribute to the peace process, but on the contrary will plunge the country into chaos.

      “There is little doubt that decisions on additional arms and military equipment supplies to illegal militant groups would drive up the level of violent confrontation and violence against innocent civilians. Especially, given that it comes amid calls to go further, to establish a no-fly zone over Syria to help not with just weapons, but heavy weapons,” RIA Novosti quoted Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aleksandr Lukashevich as having said.

      The American move undermines the joint U.S.-Russian effort to gather an international conference in Geneva on Syrian reconciliation, Ushakov added, although the exact damage will depend on Washington’s further actions.

      “Of course, this will not help in the preparation of the international conference, if the Americans actually initiate larger-scale support of the rebels", he said.

      (Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)