First Published: 2013-01-16

 

US clears Assad of chemical weapons accusations

 

National Security Council spokesman dismisses report saying there is no evidence that Syria has taken new steps towards using chemical weapons.

 

Middle East Online

Will US withdraw its support for ‘Arab Spring’?

WASHINGTON - The US government on Tuesday brushed aside a report of a leaked State Department cable indicating that Syria had used chemical weapons in its brutal crackdown on a nearly two-year-old rebellion.

Foreign Policy, an online magazine, said it had acquired a leaked State Department report by US diplomats in Turkey that made a "compelling case" that President Bashar al-Assad's forces had used poison gas.

The report was said to have been based on interviews with activists, doctors and defectors and to represent one of the most comprehensive US efforts to date to investigate claims by the Syrian opposition.

But National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor appeared to dismiss the report late Tuesday, saying there was no evidence that Syria had taken new steps towards using chemical weapons.

"The reporting we have seen from media sources regarding alleged chemical weapons incidents in Syria has not been consistent with what we believe to be true about the Syrian chemical weapons program," he said.

"The president was very clear when he said that if the Assad regime makes the tragic mistake of using chemical weapons, or fails to meet its obligation to secure them, the regime will be held accountable."

US President Barack Obama has said the use of chemical weapons or the failure to control chemical arsenals is a "red line" that could lead the United States to intervene more forcefully in the conflict.

US officials last month said that Syria appeared to have taken steps towards mixing and deploying chemical weapons, but after a flurry of media reports and stern warnings from Washington the regime apparently backed off.

According to UN figures, more than 60,000 people have been killed in the violence in Syria since the outbreak of Arab Spring-inspired protests against the Assad family's four-decade-long rule in March 2011.

The demonstrations began peacefully, but escalated into an armed rebellion after Syrian troops fired on protesters.

 

Serious challenges for Arab leaders in Amman

US, allies talk of post-ISIS future, but have no plan

Tributes flood in for anti-apartheid hero Ahmed Kathrada

Tunisians demand Muslim marriage decree revoked

Historic Casablanca buildings crumbling in silence

UN says over 300 civilians killed since start of west Mosul offensive

Disputed Iraqi province votes to fly Kurdish flag

Germany laments Turkey's 'unacceptable' spying

Syria opposition says no peace deal without US role

Turkey sends delegation to UK over electronics ban

UN chief urges Arab leaders to confront Syria war

Carlos the Jackal sentenced to life for Paris bombing

Arab League set to oppose Trump Israel embassy shift

US vows to never allow 'Israel-bashing' at UN

Netanyahu ban on MP visits to flashpoint holy site challenged

IS launches counter-attack to defend north Syria town

Saudi intercepts four ‘smuggled’ Yemen rebel missiles

Saudi to set up investment fund to help Jordan

Iran slams Bahrain terror cell claims as ‘delusional’

UN says 30 million unsure of next meal in MENA region

Putin to meet Iran President in Moscow

Al-Qaeda, on the rise again, hits Assad where it hurts

Germany’s Turks cast early ballots for Erdogan referendum

German court convicts Pakistani of spying for Iran

Qatar to invest £5bn in UK within five years

'Kill Erdogan' banner probed in Switzerland, Turkey

Arab League chief urges resolution to Syria conflict

Israel arrests 22 ultra-Orthodox sex offenders

Syrian forces pause offensive on IS-held dam for repairs

Dubai's Emaar Malls offers $800m to buy Souq.com

Iraq launches fresh Mosul Old City advance

US-backed fighters battle IS near north Syria town

Hamas partially reopens Beit Hanoun crossing

Iraq investigates Mosul civilian deaths

In Algeria, everyone wants to be MP, few likely to vote

Yemeni rebel supporters flood streets on conflict’s anniversary

Syria fighting damages IS-held dam posing rising water risk

Iran to symbolically sanction 15 US companies

Iran to appeal seizure of 9/11 compensation money

Hamas shuts Gaza crossing after assassination of official

Deep concern as Israeli laws entrench the occupation

Turkey’s Kurds could sway tight referendum vote

Al-Qaeda, on the rise again, hits Assad where it hurts

US and allies talk of post-ISIS future, but have no plan

Israel’s air strike on Syria spooks Middle East