In an interview with the AFP news service on Thursday, Syrian President Bashar Assad claimed last week’s chemical weapons attack in the Idlib province was a “100 percent fabrication.”
“Our impression is that the West, mainly the United States, is hand-in-glove with the terrorists. They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack,” Assad charged.
“There was no order to make any attack. We don’t have any chemical weapons. We gave up our arsenal a few years ago,” he said.
Assad questioned whether a chemical weapons attack occurred at all, accusing the sick and dying children captured in photos and videos that shocked the civilized world of faking their injuries and seizures.
“You have a lot of fake videos now. We don’t know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhun. Were they dead at all?” he said.
Inspectors who have autopsied the corpses of Idlib victims certainly seem convinced they are dead. The British delegation to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on Thursday confirmed Turkey’s assessment that the victims tested positive for sarin gas exposure.
“UK scientists have analyzed samples taken from Khan Sheikhoun. These have tested positive for the nerve agent sarin, or a sarin-like substance,” the U.K. representatives said at a special session of the OPCW at the Hague. A full report from the OPCW is expected within three to four weeks.
The U.S. ambassador to the OPWC, Kenneth D. Ward, said that Syria carried out the chemical attack, retained an inventory of chemical weapons, and was “abetted by Russia’s continuing efforts to bury the truth.”
Ward described the attack as “a direct affront to the Chemical Weapons Convention and, indeed, a direct affront to human decency, carried out by a state party.”
Assad’s patrons in Russia initially dismissed the gas attack as a rebel WMD stockpile hit by conventional weapons from the Syrian air force. On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed the Idlib chemical attack was a “false flag” operation perpetrated by the United States and rebels it supports, the first of several such attacks planned for the coming weeks.