Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has dismissed reports of last week's chemical attack as "100% fabrication", an assertion at odds with numerous eyewitness accounts, independent analysis and even the explanation given by its strongest ally, Russia.
"There was no order to make any attack, we don't have any chemical weapons, we gave up our arsenal a few years ago", he said.
Russia's foreign minister says Moscow expects the United Nations' chemical weapons watchdog to conduct an extensive probe into last week's chemical attack in Syria.
Assad was interviewed by the AFP news agency at the presidential palace, in Damascus. The World Health Organization soon after the attack said that the victims' symptoms strongly suggested the use of Sarin or a similiar substance.
The assault last Tuesday in Syria's Idlib Province led President Trump to authorize the USA military two days later to fire 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian government airfield, from which the US government believes the Assad regime launched the attack.
Turkey and the U.K. Ministry of Defense conducted tests to determine the gas used in the attack was sarin. Assad's government told the organization it had a 1,300-ton stockpile of chemical weapons and chemicals used to make them. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said the veto left Moscow with "a lot to prove".
Bashar Assad's government came under mounting global pressure after a chemical attack in northern Syria. The 53-year-old general said that in the weeks and months before the OPCW inspectors arrived tonnes of the chemicals were transported to the heavily fortified mountains outside Homs and to the coastal city of Jableh, near Tartus, where the Syrians and Russians have their largest military base.
In his AFP interview, Assad accused the West, particularly the United States, of being "hand-in-glove with the terrorists" over the Khan Sheikhoun incident.
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The Syrian leader later asserted that his country didn't have a chemical weapons "arsenal".
He confirmed that only the head of the army, namely Assad, has the authority to order nerve gas attacks because of the potential fallout.
Lavrov repeated the Kremlin's condemnation of the USA missile strike in Syria and said Washington was seeking "excuses for regime change".
However, Prime Minister Theresa May today said that Britain believed Assad's government was responsible for the gas attack.
The Syrian government has repeatedly denied bombing Khan Sheikhoun with chemicals, saying its air strikes hit a warehouse the opposition had been using to store toxic materials.
The polarised positions were evident too at the UN Security Council on Wednesday, when Russian Federation vetoed a Western-drafted resolution that would have required Syrian cooperation in an investigation into the suspected chemical attack.
"Frankly, that didn't happen", a Western diplomat said this week, speaking on condition of anonymity.