Assad vows to destroy chemical weapons within about a year
Syrian President Bashar Assad said he is committed to the chemical weapons agreement and vowed to hand over the country’s chemical arms to be destroyed. He added that the plan will cost around $1 billion and take about a year to complete.
Speaking to Fox News on Wednesday, Assad said that Syria is ready to hand over its chemical weapons to any country willing to take them.
"I think it's a very complicated operation, technically. And it needs a lot of money, about a billion [dollars]," he said. "So it depends, you have to ask the experts what they mean by quickly. It has a certain schedule. It needs a year, or maybe a little bit more."
Assad insisted that government forces were not responsible for the chemical attack outside Damascus on August 21. He added that the attack was a violation of international law. "This is despicable. It's a crime."
"We have evidence that terrorist groups [have] used sarin gas," he said. "The whole story [that the Syrian government used them] doesn't even hold together...We didn't use any chemical weapons."
Referring to the recent UN report that confirmed the chemical attack did take place, Assad stressed that sarin gas could have been made by anyone and hinted that foreign governments could have been behind the attack.
"The sarin gas [is] called kitchen gas. You know why? Because anyone can make sarin in his house," he said. "We know that all those rebels are supported by governments."
The Syrian leader stressed that his decision to destroy the chemical weapons stockpiles was not forced upon him by the threat of US strikes.
"Yeah, there's a misunderstanding that we agreed with this agreement because of the American threat," he said.
"Actually, if you go back before the G20, before the proposal, the Russian initiative, the American threat wasn't about handing over the chemical arsenal, it was about attacking Syria in order not to use the arsenal again," he said, referring to a Russian offer to oversee his disarmament.
"So it's not about the threat. Syria never obey any threat. We actually responded to the Russian initiative and to our needs and to our conviction," he insisted.
The plan to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles was unveiled by the US and Russia last weekend.
"Listen to your people,” Assad said, addressing US President Obama, who has faced wide opposition at home on his plan to strike Syria. “Follow the common sense of your people."