Assad says gunmen could hinder UN team's work

Syrian president says rebels may block access of inspectors to chemical weapons sites in order to spark intervention.

    Assad says gunmen could hinder UN team's work
    Assad criticised the US for threatening to attack Syria over its chemical weapons programme [AP]

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has told Chinese state TV that gunmen could hinder access of inspectors to sites where chemical weapons are stored and made.

    "We know that these terrorists are obeying the orders of other countries and these countries do drive these terrorists to commit acts that could get the Syrian government blamed for hindering this agreement," Assad said in the interview.

    Assad also criticised the US for threatening to attack Syria over its chemical weapons programme, saying it was finding "excuses for war”.

    'Excuses for war'

    US President Barack Obama has warned that he is prepared to attack Syria, even without a United Nations mandate, if Assad reneges on a US-Russia deal to put Syria's chemical arms stockpiles under international control.

    "If the US wants to find excuses for war, it will find them as it has never stopped war.”

    "As long as the US intends to continue exerting its hegemony over other countries, we will all keep high alert," Assad said, according to a transcript of his translated remarks from CCTV.

    Under the US-Russian deal, Assad must account for his chemical weapons stockpiles within a week and see them destroyed by the middle of next year.

    Chemical weapons stockpile

    Asked whether Syria had a lot of chemical weapons, Assad said: "Syria has been manufacturing chemical weapons for decades so it's normal for there to be large quantities in the country.

    "We are a nation at war, we've got territories that have been occupied for more than 40 years, but in any case, the Syrian army is trained to fight using conventional weapons."

    He said the chemical weapons were stored "under special conditions" to prevent anyone tampering with them.

    "So there is nothing to worry about. The chemical weapons in Syria are in a safe place that is secure and under the control of the Syrian army."

    Separately, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi told UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that China was willing to send experts to help in the Syrian chemical weapons destruction process, and reiterated that a political solution was the only way to solve the crisis in Syria.

    The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said on Saturday that Syria had handed over information about its chemical weapons arsenal, meeting the first deadline of the disarmament operation.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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