Al-Assad slams West on UN draft

Reuters, BEIJING

Tue, Sep 24, 2013 - Page 7

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denounced the US, France and Britain for submitting a draft resolution to the UN Security Council to place Syrian chemical weapons under international control, saying they were fighting an “imaginary enemy.”

Al-Assad, who was interviewed by China’s state television CCTV in Damascus, the Syrian capital, said he was not concerned about the draft resolution and that China and Russia would “ensure any excuse for military action against Syria will not stand.”

An article posted on the CCTV Web site yesterday quoted al-Assad as saying: “I am not concerned. Since its independence, Syria has been committed to all the treaties it has signed. We will honor everything that we have agreed to do. And more importantly, I want to say, by submitting the draft to the UN Security Council, or by urging the US and Russia to agree on a deal, the US, France and Britain are just trying to make themselves winners in a war against a Syria which is their imaginary enemy.”

Russia and the US brokered the deal to put al-Assad’s chemical arms stockpiles under international control to avert possible US military strikes that Washington said would punish al-Assad for a poison gas attack last month.

Washington has blamed al-Assad’s forces for the attack, which it said killed more than 1,400 people. Al-Assad blamed rebels battling to overthrow him, saying it made no sense for his forces to use chemical weapons when they were gaining the upper hand and while UN chemical inspectors were staying in central Damascus.

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

Envoys from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — the US, Britain, France, Russia and China — met on Thursday for a third straight day to discuss a draft resolution Western powers hope will make the deal legally binding.

Russia, a key ally of al-Assad, is unhappy with the draft’s references to possible punitive measures against Syria under Article 7 of the UN charter, which talks about UN authorization for sanctions and military force.