Syrian President Bashar Assad, who has largely remained in the shadows amid allegations that his regime killed more than 1,000 people in a chemical weapons attack, claimed in an interview with a French newspaper that his accusers — including the White House and the French government — have no evidence.
“Anyone accusing must give proof,” Assad told Le Figaro in interview excerpts published online Monday. “We have challenged the United States and France to come forward with a single proof.”
The Obama administration and French President Francois Hollande have charged Assad’s regime with perpetrating the horrific Aug. 21 chemical strike, which U.S. officials say killed some 1,426 people, including hundreds of children.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday said that samples collected by first responders after the attack have tested positive for the nerve agent sarin.
And yet Assad remained defiant in his interview with Le Figaro, telling the newspaper that “Obama and Hollande have been incapable” to offer proof of his regime’s culpability “even in front of their people.”
But the White House on Friday released an intelligence report (.pdf) claiming “high confidence” that the Syrian government deployed the illegal chemical weapons. The report cited a “large body of independent sources” but acknowledged that not all the evidence could be declassified.
In a vague remark, Assad said: “I do not say that the Syrian army possesses or not these weapons.”
“Let’s suppose that our army wishes to uses these arms of massive destruction: is it possible that it would do it in a zone that it is itself based and where solders are injured as noted by the inspectors of the United Nations when they visited the hospital where they were treated?”
He added: “Is that logical?”
When asked how he would respond to potential military strikes against key Syrian targets, Assad suggested that the region will spiral into chaos, saying: “The Middle East is a powder keg, and the fire is approaching today.”
“We should not only talk about a Syrian riposte but what will happen after the first strike. No one knows what will happen. Everyone will lose control of the situation once the powder keg explodes. Chaos and extremism will spread. The risk of a regional war exists.” source – MSNBC