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Syria Denies Using Chlorine Gas Against Civilians

"Chlorine gas has never been used by the government," claims Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister in an interview.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 5/15/2014, 3:14 AM

Faisal Mekdad
Faisal Mekdad
Reuters

Syria emphatically denied on Wednesday that it had carried out chlorine gas attacks against civilians, a month after activists said that over 100 people were killed in a chlorine gas attack in the town of Talmenes in Idlib Province.

The United Nations Security Council has called for an investigation into the alleged chlorine attack, and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons which is overseeing the destruction of Syria's chemical arms stockpile has sent a mission to Syria to investigate the allegations.

On Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that the Syrian regime is believed to have used chemical weapons, including chlorine, in 14 attacks since late 2013.

"I assure you 100% that chlorine gas has never been used by the government," Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al Mekdad said in an exclusive interview with CNN on Wednesday.

While Mekdad denied any chlorine attacks, he acknowledged that the government is not fighting lightly against opposition forces.

"My friend, we shall not attack them with flowers, because they are not attacking us with flowers," he told the network.

"They are attacking with most sophisticated weapons, given to them by the United States, given to them by Europe, given to them by Turkey, given to them by the Saudis and others," he claimed.

Mekdad also vehemently denied claims that the regime has been cutting off food access to people in Homs, which has been an opposition stronghold during much of the country's three-year civil war. Last week, the city was re-taken by the Syrian army.

"We are not starving anybody. We are trying to reach all those civilians under the control (of the rebels). And on different occasions, many convoys carrying humanitarian aid have gone but were turned back by the terrorist groups," Mekdad declared.

The Syrian regime has consistently referred to opposition fighters as "terrorists."

"If they are speaking about (the) starving of terrorism and terrorists, yes we have to do our best, and I think this is our right to do it," he added.

Despite the ongoing war that has killed more than 100,000 people, Mekdad said the country is "absolutely" fit to hold a presidential election on June 3.

When asked how Syrians in war-torn Aleppo would be able vote, the deputy foreign minister lambasted the United States and European countries.

"This double standard by certain ... European countries and the United States among others -- they don't want anything to move in Syria. They don't want legitimacy in Syria. They want the disintegration of this country," Mekdad charged.

"Or, in fact if we have to take into full consideration what they want: They don't want Syria to exist, or they want to hand Syria over to terrorist groups."