Russia, Syria hit back as pressure builds over ‘chemical attack’

At least 86 people killed early Tuesday in rebel-held Khan Sheikhun

By AFP – Apr 07,2017 – JORDAN TIMES


A picture taken on Thursday shows 40-year-old Hassan Youssef, a victim of Tuesday’s suspected toxic gas attack in Khan Sheikhun, receiving medical care in a hospital in the nearby northwestern Syrian city of Idlib (AFP photo)

BEIRUT — Syria’s regime and Russia hit back Thursday at accusations that Damascus was behind a deadly chemical weapons attack, as pressure built for international action over what Washington called an “affront to humanity”.

France said it was determined to pursue a UN Security Council resolution to investigate dozens of civilian deaths in a northwestern Syria town, which Turkey said it suspected were the result of exposure to nerve agent sarin.

At least 86 people were killed early on Tuesday in rebel-held Khan Sheikhun, and dozens more have received treatment for convulsions, breathing problems and foaming at the mouth. 

World powers have pointed the finger at the government of Bashar Assad, but Foreign Minister Walid Muallem repeated the government’s denial on Thursday. 

“The Syrian army has not, did not and will not use this kind of weapons — not just against our own people, but even against the terrorists that attack our civilians with their mortar rounds,” he said.

Russia also stood by its longtime ally, with President Vladimir Putin warning against a rush to judgement.

In a Kremlin statement, Putin underlined “the unacceptability of making unfounded accusations against anyone before a thorough and impartial international investigation is carried out”. 

More than 30 people were transferred across the border into Turkey for treatment following the incident, and Ankara said a preliminary probe found “a link between these injuries and the use of chemical weapons”.

“According to the results of the initial analysis, the findings suggest the injured were exposed to a chemical substance [sarin],” the Turkish health ministry said in a statement.

After an emergency session of the UN Security Council on Wednesday, Western diplomats are expected to push for a vote as early as Thursday on a resolution demanding an investigation of the suspected attack.


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