Syrian minister says chemical weapons claims ‘barefaced lie’

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U.S. and British accusations that the regime in Damascus may have used chemical weapons are a “barefaced lie,” Syria’s information minister told Russian television Saturday.

“First of all, I want to confirm that statements by the U.S. Secretary of State and British government are inconsistent with reality and a barefaced lie,” Omran al-Zohbi said in an interview published on the Kremlin-funded RT’s website.

“I want to stress one more time that Syria would never use it -- not only because of its adherence to the international law and rules of leading war, but because of humanitarian and moral issues,” Zohbi said in comments that were published in English on the website.

U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday warned Syria that using chemical weapons would be a “game changer,” after the U.S., Israel and Britain all cited signs that the regime attacked with the deadly agent sarin.

United Nations chief Ban Ki-Moon has called on Syria to approve a U.N. mission of inspectors to probe the alleged use of chemical weapons in the spiraling two-year conflict.

But Zohbi told RT that the Syrian government could not trust U.N. inspectors from Britain and the U.S.

“We do not trust the American and British experts from a political point of view,” Zobhi said.

“We also do not trust their qualifications. Their aim is to juggle with facts.”

He added that the Syrian government would accept Russian inspectors.

“We won’t mind if Russians would be among the experts, quite the contrary, we only welcome this idea. We are quite sure in their high qualification and ability to clearly see into such matters,” he was quoted as saying.

Along with China, Russia has blocked several U.N. Security Council draft resolutions threatening sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

During his visit to Russia, Zobhi on Saturday met the deputy speaker of the upper house of parliament, Ilyas Umakhanov.

Meanwhile, Russia’s deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov said on Saturday that claims chemical weapons have been used in Syria should not become a pretext for a foreign military intervention.

“If there is serious evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, it should be presented immediately and not concealed,” said Bogdanov, who is Russian President Vladmir Putin’s Middle East envoy, during a visit to Beirut.

“We must check the information immediately and in conformity with international criteria and not use it to achieve other objectives. It must not be a pretext for an intervention in Syria,” added Bogdanov, according to an Arabic translation of his remarks that were carried by AFP.

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