Damascus - Syria dismissed as a "barefaced lie" on
Saturday American and British claims it may have used chemical arms, as staunch
ally Russia warned against using such fears to intervene militarily in the
"First of all, I want to confirm that statements by the
US secretary of state and British government are inconsistent with reality and
a barefaced lie," Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zohbi said in an
interview published on the Kremlin-funded Russia Today'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.
The UN chief Ban Ki-moon has called on Damascus to approve a
UN mission of inspectors to probe the alleged use of chemical weapons in the
spiralling conflict that erupted in March 2011.
But Zohbi told Russia Today that Syria could not trust UN
inspectors from Britain and the United States.
"We also do not trust their qualifications. Their aim
is to juggle with facts," he said, adding that Syria would accept Russian
"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
Along with China, Russia has blocked several UN Security
Council draft resolutions threatening sanctions against President Bashar Assad's regime.
US President Barack Obama warned Syria on Friday that using
chemical weapons would be a "game changer", after the US, Israel and
Britain cited signs that Assad's regime has used the deadly agent sarin.
But Obama said Washington must act prudently and establish
exactly if, how and when such arms may have been used, promising a
"vigorous" US and international probe into the latest reports.
Russia warned against using these reports for military
"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," deputy
foreign minister and Middle East envoy Mikhail Bogdanov said in Beirut.
Zohbi linked the chemical arms accusations to what he said
was the recent military success of regime forces.
"I want to give you joy: there are qualitative changes
on the battlefields. The uproar from the Americans that has arisen in the last
48 hours is due to this," he was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news
Zohbi on Friday said at a news conference in comments
published by the Interfax news agency that chemical weapons were used by rebels
and originated in Turkey.
The Syrian opposition has stepped up pressure by urging the
UN Security Council to take immediate steps, possibly even by imposing a no-fly
zone on Syria.
And British Prime Minister David Cameron said the growing
evidence that Assad had turned chemical agents on his own people was
Fighting continued unabated on Saturday, with at least 10
people killed in shelling on Douma northeast of Damascus, the Syrian
Observatory for Human Rights said.
On Friday, at least 127 people were killed across the
country, it said.
Analysts said Syria's neighbours face a growing risk of the
conflict spilling across their region as Assad turns to ever more desperate
acts to halt rebels.
They said Lebanon and Jordan will be the most vulnerable if
the conflict spreads, while Iraq will also be affected along with Israel and
"It is a very vulnerable region and there is a risk of
escalation," said Anthony Skinner of British risk consultancy Maplecroft.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki alluded to Syria on
Saturday, saying sectarian strife growing in his own country "came back to
Iraq because it began in another place in this region."
Senior Egyptian officials, meanwhile, visited Iran on
Saturday to further a proposal by Cairo for an Islamic quartet of Egypt,
Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran that would help to resolve the Syrian conflict,
the Egyptian presidency said.
Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia support the mostly Sunni
rebels in Syria, while Shiite Iran backs Assad's minority-led Alawite regime.