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article imageSyria denies 'lies' on chemical weapons use

By AFP     Jan 24, 2018 in World

Syria denied on Wednesday carrying out chemical weapons attacks against rebel-held areas, denouncing recent accusations by the United States and France as "lies".

"Syria condemns all the lies and allegations by the American and French foreign ministers about chemical weapons use in Syria," a foreign ministry official told state news agency SANA.

Twenty-one people were treated for respiratory problems after rockets were fired on the rebel bastion of Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus on Monday, which residents and medical sources said contained chlorine.

In response, 24 governments approved a new "partnership against impunity" for the use of toxic weapons at a meeting in Paris on Tuesday.

Speaking after the meeting, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Damascus ally Moscow must be held responsible for the "apparent chemical attack".

"Whoever conducted the attacks, Russia ultimately bears responsibility for the victims in East Ghouta and countless other Syrians targeted with chemical weapons, since Russia became involved in Syria," Tillerson told reporters.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who chaired the meeting, said perpetrators "will not go unpunished".

And France announced sanctions against 25 people and companies it said were linked to Syria's alleged chemical weapons.

Syria has staunchly denied the claims, pointing to its 2013 handover of its chemical stores as part of a deal between the United States and Russia.

That agreement came after accusations that Damascus used sarin gas on Eastern Ghouta in August 2013.

"Syria has constantly cooperated and provided the conditions to carry out an honest, objective, and professional investigation into chemical weapons use," the foreign ministry official said.

"But the clique of Western imperialists always impeded it," the official added.

Damascus has been repeatedly accused of using chemical weapons even after the 2013 deal.

The United Nations found that Syrian government forces were responsible for chlorine attacks on three villages in 2014 and 2015.

And last year, the UN and others blamed regime forces for an April 2017 sarin gas attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun that left scores dead.

Regime ally Russia cast back-to-back vetoes in November to block the renewal of a probe to identify the perpetrators of chemical attacks in Syria.

Moscow has dismissed the most recent allegations.

It accused Western governments on Tuesday of trying to sabotage a planned peace conference for Syria in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi next week.

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