Rebel fighters in Syria used chemical weapons, particularly sarin gas, in an attack on regime forces near Damascus, a Syrian official told AFP Tuesday.
According to the official, who spoke under a condition of anonymity, the use of nonconventional arms was verified by UN inspectors who had arrived in Syria to investigate an August 21 chemical assault which killed hundreds of Syrian civilians.
The official, a high-ranking authority within the Syrian security establishment, also denied that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad had ever resorted to chemical warfare.
“I categorically deny that we have used sarin gas,” the official said, “for the reason that we had no interest in doing so.”
The official said that chemical weapons use did not make sense for the Syrian army, as it had begun to gain the upper hand in the ongoing clashes throughout the country.
“It is generally the losers who adopt such a suicidal attitude,” he said. “On the contrary, the army was winning,”
Referring to the rebels as “terrorists,” the Syrian security source assessed that sarin had been transported via locally manufactured ground-to-ground missiles.
“It is highly likely that they used the [missiles] to transport [the deadly gas],” the official said.
The official went on to accuse Western secret agents of training the rebels in the country and providing them with critical information regarding chemical weapons use.
“Of course the rebels know how to load missiles with sarin,” he said. “They have been trained by the US, French and British secret services, which are active on the ground.”
According to AFP, the official confirmed that the Syrian regime possessed chemical weapons, but stated that this had only been to “create a strategic balance with Israel,” which, he said, has a large arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.
“It was nothing more than a way to dissuade the Zionist enemy,” the official said.
On Monday, the United Nation’s secretary-general condemned the August 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus, calling it a “war crime.” Ban Ki-moon made his remarks during a press conference following the presentation of a UN inspectors’ report on the strike.
The report stated that there is “clear and convincing evidence” that chemical weapons were used on a relatively large scale in the attack last month. Ban presented the UN inspectors’ report to a closed meeting of the UN Security Council before speaking to the press.
Ban declined to assign blame, saying it was for “others to decide” who was behind the attack. The US says it has no doubt Assad’s regime was responsible.
Lazar Berman contributed to this report