02:51 GMT +325 March 2018
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    Smoke rises from the Raqqa province Syria. (File)

    US Claims About Chemical Attack in Syria 'Signal of a New Escalation'

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    Middle East
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    Earlier this week, the United States claimed that a new attack involving chemical weapons was in the works by the Syrian government.

    "The United States has identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.  The activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017 chemical weapons attack," the White House said in a statement.

    Washington also warned that if a chemical attack is carried out Assad and the Syrian military "will pay a heavy price."

    In response, Damascus refuted the claims, calling them "misleading, false and baseless." Ali Haidar, the Minister of State for National Reconciliation Affairs in Syria said Damascus has never used and will never use such weapons. He also accused the US of an attempt to ignite a "diplomatic battle" against Syria in the UN.

    Commenting on the statement, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow regards it as groundless.

    "We heard about this statement. We do not know what the basis is. And of course we categorically disagree with the 'another attack' wording," Peskov told journalists.

    This statement is a "disguise" for another attempt by the US to escalate the conflict in Syria, according to Akil Mahfud, Director of International Relations at the Syrian Ministry of Higher Education.

    "First, this is a signal of new acts of aggressions against Damascus and its allies. This is a disguise for aggression. Second. This is a response to Moscow and [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov’s criticism of the US counterterrorism efforts in Syria. This statement indicates that the Syrian crisis is on the verge of a new escalation and Russia should be braced for talks and an increase in pressure," Mahfud told Sputnik.

    Recently, Lavrov said that the US-led coalition has been making attempts to "spare" al-Nusra Front from strikes in Syria.

    "Double standards can still be seen. I have already said that we have a strong impression based on experience of fighting terrorism in Syria that the so-called al-Nusra Front, whatever it is called today, is always being spared by the coalition headed by the United States, as well as other countries that cooperate with it," Lavrov said at a press conference.

    According to Mahfud, what is currently important is to prevent the US from achieving its "goal to stop the Syrian Army’s advance to the east."

    Senior Russian lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev suggested that the US might be preparing for a "preemptive" attack on Syrian government troops as Washington warned of a possible chemical attack allegedly planned by Damascus.

    "In any case, it is Washington that looks very unsavory in this story: they either know about the upcoming attack and are not trying to prevent it, but knowingly put the uncomfortable Syrian leader in the wrong for that… Or the United States is preparing its own preemptive strike on Syrian troops and appeals to the topic that is already ‘famous’ on a global level and will definitely justify any preventive action," Kosachev told journalists.


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    terrorism, chemical weapons, military conflict, Syria, United States
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