Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, has challenged the west to come up with “a single piece” of evidence that he has used chemical weapons.
He warned that any military intervention in Syria could spark a “regional war”.
“The Middle East is a powder keg, and today the fuse is getting shorter,” he said in an exclusive interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro.
As the French government published declassified documents purporting to show the Assad regime has used chemical weapons against its own people, the Syrian president vehemently denied the accusations.
“Whoever is doing the accusing must come up with proof. We have challenged the United States and France to provide a single piece of proof. Messrs Obama and Holland haven’t been able to do so, even to their own people,” Assad said.
He said there was no logic to claims his forces used lethal sarin nerve gas in an attack on the outskirts of Damascus on 21 August.
“Supposing our army wanted to use weapons of massive destruction; would it do so in a zone where it is located and where soldiers have been injured by these weapons, as the United Nations inspectors noted when they visited the hospital where they were being treated. Where is the logic?” Assad said.
Asked what would happen if outside forces carried out military strikes against his regime, Assad replied: “One must not speak only about the Syrian response, but rather what could happen after the first strike.
“Because nobody can know what will happen. Everyone will lose control of the situation when the powder keg explodes. Chaos and extremism will spread. The risk of a regional war exists.”
Assad’s interview came just two days before the French parliament is due to debate Syria and the possibility of military intervention against Damascus in response to the chemical weapons attack.
The Syrian president warned: “Whoever contributes to the reinforcing of terrorists, financially and militarily, is an enemy of the Syrian people. Whoever acts against the interests of Syria and its citizens is an enemy.
“The French people are not our enemy, but the politics of the (French) state is hostile to the Syrian people. As French state politics is hostile to the Syrian people, that state is an enemy.
“This hostility will end when the French state changes its policies. There will be repercussions, negative of course, for France’s interests.”
On Monday, the Assad regime asked the United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon to “shoulder his responsibilities for preventing any aggression on Syria”. It also called on the UN security council to “maintain its role as a safety valve to prevent the absurd use of force out of the frame of international legitimacy,” according to Syrian state media.
Syria has said it wants help achieving a “political solution” to the conflict, but Assad told Le Figaro it was too late to negotiate with the opposition forces ranged against him. “We are fighting terrorists … they are not interested in reform or in politics,” he said.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
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