Syria vows to use ‘surprise’ defenses in case of military strike

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Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem vowed on Tuesday that his country will defend itself in case of any Western military strikes against it, Agence France-Presse reported.

“We have two options: either to surrender, or to defend ourselves with the means at our disposal. The second choice is the best: we will defend ourselves,” AFP quoted Muallem as saying in a televised news conference.

Muallem said that his country had defenses that would “surprise” the world, and that any such action against it would serve the interests of Israel and al-Qaeda.

“Syria is not an easy case. We have defences which will surprise others,” he said.

“The war effort lead by the United States and their allies will serve the interests of Israel and secondly al-Nusra Front,” an al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group in Syria, said Muallem.

Allegations that the Syria government used chemical weapons in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Ghouta last week is merely a “pretext” to attack the country, he said.

The attack killed hundreds of civilians, including women and children.

“All we hear is the drums of war beating,” said Muallem, adding that he “challenged” those making the allegations to provide evidence.

Britain’s armed forces are drawing up contingency plans for military action in response to the alleged chemical attack, a spokesman Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday.

Washington said there was little doubt that the Syrian government used chemical weapons, adding that it was evaluating a response.

“Syria can’t remove evidence in areas that are under militants’ control,” said Muallem. “Where were the U.N. inspectors when we requested them to inspect sites five months ago?”

Damascus’s ally Russia said opposition forces could be behind the Ghouta attack, which took place on Wednesday.

Both sides have exchanged accusations of using chemical weapons in a conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people, according to the United Nations.

It is “part of Syria’s national interests to cooperate with the U.N. inspectors,” said Muallem. He rejected Washington’s statement that Damascus offering access to Ghouta was “too late.”

The United Nations made a request to inspect the site on Saturday, Muallem said.

“Sunday we agreed, and Monday” the inspectors went to the site, he added. “We didn’t argue over the sites [they requested]. We agreed immediately. There was no delay.”

Muallem accused rebels of firing on a convoy of U.N. inspectors, briefly delaying their mission to gather evidence.

“Today, we were surprised by the fact that they were not able to get there because the rebels did not agree to guarantee the mission’s security. So the mission has been delayed until tomorrow.”

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