Assad denies chemical weapons claims, challenges US to provide evidence
Syrian President Bashar Assad on Sunday denied that his regime was responsible for a chemical weapons attack on the Syrian people during an interview with a US TV channel.
The United States alleges that the Syrian government under Assad used chemical weapons against civilians in the outskirts of Damascus on 21 August, killing more than 1,400 people, a claim that the government categorically denies. The United States and France, UN Security Council veto-wielding members maintain that Assad was behind the attack and should be deterred from using chemical weapons again.
During an interview with US TV station CBS, Assad on Sunday denied any involvement in the chemical weapons attack, challenging the US to provide evidence of his role in the Damascus massacre, Reuters reported.
CBS reported on Assad's stance on the chemical weapons Sunday on its news program "Face the Nation". The report was a summary of the interview and did not contain any audio or video of Assad, Reuters reported.
"There has been no evidence that I used chemical weapons against my own people," CBS reported Assad said in an interview conducted in Damascus.
Assad said if the United States has evidence, Washington should produce it.
Assad would neither confirm nor deny that his government kept chemical weapons, but said that if they existed, they were "in centralised control", according to a BBC report.
Assad said he feared a US-led military strike might degrade the Syrian military and tip the balance in favour of the rebels in the two and a half-year-old civil war, CBS reported.
The Syrian president also warned that if there was a military strike by the United States, there would be retaliation by those aligned with Syria, CBS said, Reuters reported. Reports last week came in that Assad had been mobilising his allies, Iran and Hezbollah, ready for a potential conflict.
In London, US Secretary of State Kerry countered Assad, saying "The evidence speaks for itself."