Syrian President Bashar Assad on Monday demanded the world produce evidence his forces used chemical weapons, calling the region a “powder keg” and warning an attack against him would ignite a regional war.
“Nobody knows what will happen” if the US or other countries attack Syria,” Assad said in an interview with the French paper Le Figaro. “Everyone will lose control of the situation when the powder keg explodes. Chaos and extremism will spread… There is a risk of regional war.”
Assad told the paper that Western claims of intelligence information ostensibly proving the regime’s use of chemical weapons, in an attack near Damascus August 21 that killed hundreds, were spurious.
“Anyone who accuses [the use of gas] must provide evidence,” the president said, adding he had asked the US and France to prove their claims, but Presidents “[Barack] Obama and [Francois] Hollande were unable to.”
“Obama is weak,” Assad charged. “If Obama was strong, he would have said publicly: ‘We have no evidence of the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian State’. He would have said publicly: ‘The only way to proceed is through UN investigations. We therefore refer everything to the Security Council’.”
Though Assad avoided confirming that his army was in possession of chemical weapons — which, according to the West, were used to kill some 1,400 people in the attack — the president said it would be “illogical” for the Syrian army to use such munitions close to its own troops.
Assad said his army was “fighting terrorists,” claiming that 80-90 percent of the rebels “belong to al-Qaeda. They are not interested in reform or in politics. The only way to deal with them is to annihilate them. Only then will we be able to talk about political measures.”