Rebels used chemical weapons in Damascus: Syrian regime

AFP , Saturday 24 Aug 2013

While the Syrian government says rebels use chemical weapons in an attack on civilians, France points to Bashar Al-Assad's regime as responsible

Member of the Free Syrian Army holds his weapon as he sits on sofa in the middle of the street in Deir al-Zor (Photo: Reuters)

Syria's government said Saturday that rebel fighters used chemical weapons in a northeastern district of the capital, countering insurgent claims that the regime was behind the alleged attacks.

"An army unit is surrounding a sector of Jobar where terrorists used chemical weapons," said the state broadcaster, adding that soldiers who tried to enter the neighbourhood had "suffocated."

But French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Saturday that all indications show that Syria's government was behind the "chemical massacre" near Damascus that the opposition claims killed hundreds.

"All the information at our disposal converges to indicate that there was a chemical massacre near Damascus and that the Bashar regime is responsible," Fabius said on a visit to Ramallah in the West Bank.

Opponents of Bashar Al-Assad said the president's forces killed 1,300 people when they unleased chemical weapons east and southwest of Damascus in the attacks Wednesday.

UN Undersecretary General Angela Kane arrived in the Syrian capital Saturday for talks aimed at establishing the terms of an enquiry into the alleged attacks, AFP reported.

"We ask that the UN team that is there can be deployed very quickly and make the necessary inspections," Fabius said.

"The information we have shows that this chemical massacre is of such gravity that it obviously cannot pass without a strong reaction," he added.

The Syrian government has strongly denied accusations it carried out the attacks, but so far it has not said whether it will let UN inspectors visit the site.

Fabius arrived early Saturday on a visit to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories aimed at encouraging recently resumed peace talks, his office said.

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