Syrian govt denies using chemical weapons; US to arm rebels



Zee Media Bureau

Aleppo: The Syrian government has reportedly denied using chemical weapons in the ongoing Syrian clashes after claims made by United States.

The US has said that it has “high confidence” that the Syrian regime is carrying out small-scale chemical attacks and has killed up to 150 people with sarin gas, as per a news agency report.

The charges have been denied by the Syrian foreign ministry which has claimed that the “fabricated information” is being used as an excuse to arm the rebels, as per a BBC report.

The use of a chemical weapon crosses President Barack Obama's "red line" for escalating US involvement in the conflict and prompted the decision to send arms and ammunition, not just humanitarian aid and defensive non-lethal help like armored vests and night goggles.

In a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Ambassador Susan Rice said the United States has determined that sarin was used in a March 19 attack on the Aleppo suburb of Khan al-Assal and in an April 13 attack on the neighborhood of Shaykh Maqsud. She said unspecified chemicals, possibly including chemical warfare agents, were used May 14 in an attack on Qasr Abu Samrah and in a May 23 attack on Adra.

The US is likely to aid Syrian rebels with small arms, ammunition, assault rifles and a variety of anti-tank weaponry such as shoulder-fired rocket-propelled grenades and other missiles.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, however, voiced opposition to the US decision to send arms to the Syrian rebels. He said no one can be certain chemical weapons were used without an on-the-ground investigation. Increasing the flow of arms to either side "would not be helpful," he said

The US has so far provided $250 million in non-lethal military and political aid to the Syrian opposition. The Obama administration has already told Congress that $127 million of this aid is in the pipeline. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Friday the administration now has notified Congress that the remaining $123 million in assistance, including body armor and other equipment such as night-vision goggles, is beginning to move to the Syrian rebels.

(With Agency Inputs)