Syria lashed out at the United States Monday by accusing the American administration of stoking fears about the country’s chemical weapons in order to topple President Bashar Assad.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem told Beirut-based al-Mayadeen TV that the US was trying to create a scenario similar to that which led to the invasion of Iraq. Muallem gave the interview on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York.
“This issue [chemical weapons] is an invention of the American administration,” Muallem said in excerpts of an interview to be broadcast in full later Monday, AFP reported.
But Muallem was vague on whether or not the Assad regime possesses chemical weapons or not. In July, Damascus acknowledged it had chemical weapons and claimed it would not use them against civilians, but only as a deterrent against enemy countries, namely Israel, in case of an attack.
“These chemical weapons in Syria, if they exist — and I emphasize if — how is it possible that we would use them against our own people? It’s a joke,” he said, according to AFP. “But this definitely does not mean that Syria has a stockpile of chemical weapons or that it intends to use these weapons against its own people … It is a myth they invented to launch a campaign against Syria like they did in Iraq.”
The US-led coalition that invaded Iraq in March 2003 cited Saddam Hussein’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction as an overarching reason to topple the Iraqi dictator. The weapons were never found.
The fear of Syria’s chemical weapons getting loose or being used during the course of the bloody Syrian uprising has stoked fears among the international community. Earlier this week, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pointed to new intelligence and said that Syria had moved some of its chemical weapons stockpiles to more secure areas in order to reinforce them.