Syria gives Russia ‘new evidence’ on chemical attack

September 18, 2013 12:21 pm
Smoke billows from the site of an ammunitions depot blast in the Wadi al-Zahab district of Homs, on August 1, 2013/AFP
Smoke billows from the site of an ammunitions depot blast in the Wadi al-Zahab district of Homs, on August 1, 2013/AFP

, MOSCOW September 18- Russia Wednesday said the Syrian regime had handed over new evidence implicating rebels in a chemical attack outside Damascus, as divisions reemerged between Moscow and the West after a landmark deal to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons.

Despite a weekend agreement between the United States and Russia aimed at dismantling Syria’s chemical arsenal by mid 2014, the two sides remained at loggerheads in their assessment of the August 21 gas attack which left hundreds dead.

US President Barack Obama said it was “inconceivable” that anyone other than the Syrian regime could have carried out the attack but Russia defiantly kept to its past suspicions that the rebels could be to blame.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Wednesday after the first of two days of talks in Damascus the Syrian regime has handed Russia new materials implicating rebels in the chemical attack.

“The corresponding materials were handed to the Russian side. We were told that they were evidence that the rebels are implicated in the chemical attack,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies after talks with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem late Tuesday.

He said that Russia would “examine the Syrian materials implicating the rebels with the utmost seriousness”.

To the fury of the West, Russia has repeatedly expressed suspicion that the chemical attack was a “provocation” staged by the rebels with the aim of attracting Western military intervention in the conflict.

Ryabkov also said Russia was disappointed with the report into the chemical weapons attack published by UN inspectors this week, saying it was selective and had ignored other episodes.

“Without a full picture we cannot describe the character of the conclusions as anything other than politicised, biased and one-sided,” he said.

Ryabkov is on a visit to Damascus to emphasise to the Syrian regime the importance of implementing “swiftly and strictly” the agreement between Moscow and Washington to rid Syria of its chemical weapons.

The United States and its allies maintain the attack was carried out by Syrian government forces, and believe the assessment released by UN experts released on Monday backed their view.

“When you look at the details of the evidence they present it is inconceivable that anybody other than the regime used” the chemical weapons, US President Barack Obama said Tuesday of the UN report.

The report helped “change the international dynamic” on the issue, he claimed in the interview on the Spanish language Telemundo network.

The State Department earlier accused Russia of “swimming against the tide” of both international opinion and the facts about the attack.

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