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24 Aug, 2013 10:12

Syrian rebels use toxic chemicals against govt troops near Damascus - state media

Syrian rebels have used chemical weapons against regime forces in the Damascus suburb of Jobar, where soldiers discovered stockpiles of toxic poisoning antidotes, state media reports.

According to SANA citing “an official source” suffocation cases among army soldiers have been reported.

The source told the agency that army unit pushed into the area, where soldiers were attacked, and seized a warehouse containing material labeled 'Made in KSA' as well as a large number of protective masks.

In addition, the army discovered a stockpile of chemical poisoning antidotes with 'The Qatari-German Company for Pharmaceutical Industries' label on them.

Clashes have been reported between rebels and regime forces in Jobar.

Rebels fighting to oust President Bashar Assad accuse government forces of attacking people in the Damascus suburbs with toxic gas on Wednesday.

The ruling regime has dismissed the accusations.

However, some Western powers suspect Assad’s forces to be behind the attack that the opposition claims killed anywhere between ‘dozens’ to ‘1,300’.  

Photo from SANA.sy by M. Ismael/Mazen

France says all indications show that Syrian army troops are responsible for what it called a "chemical massacre".

"All the information at our disposal converges to indicate that there was a chemical massacre near Damascus and that the Bashar regime is responsible," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Saturday.

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has suggested that "the Assad regime has something to hide" as the UN team, which is “20 minutes away” from the site of the recent attack, “have not been able to” go there and investigate.

“Why else have they not allowed the UN team to go there?” Hague said.

The US and European security sources have made a preliminary assessment that the Syrian government used chemical weapon, but still said they are seeking conclusive proof, which could take days, weeks or longer to gather.

The White House said on Saturday that a ‘range of options’ is available on Syria if it’s proven that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons.

Photo from SANA.sy by M. Ismael/Mazen

"We have a range of options available, and we are going to act very deliberately so that we're making decisions consistent with our national interest, as well as our assessment of what can advance our objectives in Syria," the White House official said. "Once we ascertain the facts, the President will make an informed decision about how to respond," the official added.

President Obama is set to meet with his national security team later on in the day to discuss possible options.
In response, Iran has warned the US against possible military intervention in Syria, saying it will fuel tension across the region.

"Iran has announced several times that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis, these provocative measures and moves make regional issues more complicated and fuel tensions," Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Abbas Araqchi said.

 AFP Photo / SANA

"The Syrian problem could be resolved only through a peaceful solution and there is no international permit for military meddling in Syria," he added.

FM said there is evidence showing that terrorist groups and rebels have been using chemical weapons against Syrian civilians.

Photo from SANA.sy by M. Ismael/Mazen

UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Angela Kane arrived in Syria to try to get access for the team of international inspectors to work at the site in the Damascus suburbs.

The UN investigative team entered the country last Sunday to examine and investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons in three different locations, as it was agreed with President Bashar Assad’s government.

Following Wednesday attack, UN inspectors requested access to the site “without delays”.

The Syrian government said that it was ready to engage in “maximum” cooperation with UN experts, according to Russia’s foreign ministry.

On Friday the Syrian opposition said they will ensure the safety of UN chemical weapons experts as they pass through rebel-controlled areas, adding that their successful arrival at the site of an alleged gas attack near Damascus within 48 hours was "critical." 

On Saturday the Syrian opposition denied that they that rebel forces had employed chemical weapons, making allegations that the government was employing diversionary tactics.

“The National Coalition totally rejects the lies from the [President Bashar] Assad regime and considers them a desperate bid to divert attention from its repeated crimes and methods against Syrian civilians,” said a statement released by the main opposition bloc.

The “international community knows full well that the Assad regime is the only party in Syria which possesses the means to produce, use and stock chemical weapons,” the statement said.