- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 5, 2017

In its first official comment on the suspected chemical attack on rebel-held territory in Syria Tuesday that killed more than 100 people, Iran strongly condemned the strike but refused to blame its ally, Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“Iran strongly condemns all use of chemical weapons regardless of who is responsible and who are the victims,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghassemi told reporters in Tehran, according to an account carried by the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

But Mr. Ghassemi cautioned against “rushed judgments and accusations that benefit … certain actors,” claiming that anti-Assad rebel groups — which Tehran calls “terrorists” — have also been known to have stored and used chemical weapons.

Iran and Russia are Mr. Assad’s two big backers in the brutal Syrian civil war, but Tehran has long condemned chemical warfare after its troops were attacked by nerve agents and other chemical weapons in the 1980s war with Iraq’s Saddam Hussein.

Citing Mr. Assad’s frequent past use of chemical weapons, the Trump administration and governments across Europe have said Damascus was most likely behind the attack on the Syrian province of Idlib.

Like Iran, Russia has also questioned whether Mr. Assad’s forces were behind the chemical attack, alleging a Syrian airstrike may have hit a chemical weapons storage site set up by the rebels.

With an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting on the attack set for Wednesday morning, Moscow has expressed its opposition to a proposed resolution drafted by the U.S., Britain and France condemning the strike and stressing the Assad government’s obligation to detail what it knows about the attack. The resolution would also require Syria to give investigators the names of those in command of any helicopter squadrons on April 4.

• David R. Sands can be reached at dsands@washingtontimes.com.

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