- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 19, 2013

Syria’s military did not use chemical weapons and has killed mostly terrorists during the country’s civil war, President Bashar Assad said in his second recent U.S. TV interview.

“We have evidence that terrorist groups used sarin gas,” Mr. Assad told Fox News, referring to the insurgents seeking to topple his regime.

A U.N. report into an Aug. 21 incident concluded that sarin had been fired in rockets from government-held territory, but it stopped short of accusing the Assad regime. Russian and Syrian diplomats have said extremist groups backed by U.S. allies in the region used the gas in an effort to provoke a U.S. intervention.

“The whole story [of the Aug. 21 attack] doesn’t even hold together,” Mr. Assad said. “We didn’t use any chemical weapons.”

But the Syrian leader acknowledged that Syria has an illegal chemical weapons stockpile, saying his government would abide by the requirements of the international treaty he signed on to last week and have the weapons destroyed under international supervision.

“It’s not a secret anymore,” he said.

Mr. Assad said he accepts that the weapons might have to be handed over to be destroyed elsewhere.

Any country “ready to take the risk of those materials, let them take it,” he told Fox News’ Greg Palkot and Dennis J. Kucinich in Damascus on Tuesday.

Fox broadcast the interview Wednesday evening, and the Syrian government put the whole video on its website at the same time, according to The New York Times.

Mr. Assad echoed claims by Russian officials that there is evidence the gas had been used by insurgents on Aug. 21 and on other occasions.

“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.”

He downplayed reports about tens of thousands of civilian casualties in the country’s civil war, saying that many of the people killed by his army and security forces were “terrorists.”

“This is war. You don’t have ‘clean’ war,” he said.

• Shaun Waterman can be reached at swaterman@washingtontimes.com.

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