1 September 2013, 16:40

Syria says Obama is 'hesitant, confused'; French gov't is 'irresponsible'

Syria said on Sunday US President Barack Obama is "hesitant" and "confused" after he postponed a threatened military strike on the regime to seek Congress approval.

Update: Assad says Syria can confront external aggression - state TV

President Bashar al-Assad said on Sunday Syria was capable of confronting any external attack after U.S. President Barack Obama said there should be a military strike on Syria.

"Syria... is capable of facing up to any external aggression just as it faces up to internal aggression every day, in the form of terrorist groups and those that support them," he said in comments carried by state news agency SANA.

In his first official remarks since Obama's unexpected announcement on Saturday, Assad said that Syria continues to "record victory after victory".

Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad earlier told reporters in Damascus that Obama "was clearly hesitant, disappointed and confused when he spoke yesterday.

"Obama's decision effectively pushes back any military action aimed at punishing Assad's regime over an alleged deadly poison gas attack until at least September 9, when US lawmakers return from their summer recess.

The United States have blamed the Syrian government for the suspected August 21 attack, which Washington says killed more than 1,400 people - accusations Damascus categorically denies.

 "President Obama was clearly hesitant, disappointed and confused when he spoke yesterday," Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad told reporters in Damascus, in the Syrian regime's first reaction to Obama's announcement.

Muqdad also slammed France's government as "irresponsible" and accused it of trying to dupe its own people over its support of a military strike on Damascus over an alleged gas attack.

"There is a responsible government in Syria but there is no responsible government in Paris," said Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Muqdad, hours after US President Barack Obama decided to seek Congress approval before a potential strike.

"We believe the (French) president and his foreign minister are deceiving the French people to justify the failed policies against Syria, and they will not succeed," he told reporters in Damascus.

Faisal Muqdad added that he urges US lawmakers to show "wisdom" in their vote on a proposed military strike on Damascus.

"We ask the US Congress to show wisdom," Deputy Foreign Minister Muqdad told reporters, once again denying his regime was behind an alleged poison gas attack on August 21 that precipitated calls for military action.

"Chemical weapons have been used by Al-Qaeda and those who are in their pay thanks to what Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other countries supply to these terrorists," he said, using the government's term for anti-regime rebels.

Meanwhile Syria's opposition coalition called on Sunday on the US congress to grant approval for military action against President Bashar al-Assad and said any intervention should be accompanied with more arms for the rebels.

"The Syrian Coalition believes any possible military action should be carried out in conjunction with an effort to arm the Free Syrian Army. This will be vital in restraining Assad and ending the killing," the coalition said in a statement.

Syria opposition 'disappointed', believes US Congress will 'ok' strike

Syria's main opposition bloc said Sunday it was "disappointed" with US President Barack Obama's decision to seek approval from Congress for action against the regime, but said it believed lawmakers would 'ok' a strike.

"We had a feeling of disappointment. We were expecting things to be quicker, that a strike would be imminent.But we believe Congress will approve a strike," said Samir Nashar, a top official at the Syrian National Coalition.

To general surprise, Obama on Saturday postponed threatened missile strikes against Syria that the world had thought were imminent, opting instead for the risky gamble of getting Congress approval.

This effectively pushes back any military action aimed at punishing the regime over an alleged poison gas attack until at least September 9, when US lawmakers return from their summer recess.

Nashar said the coalition was confident that Arab foreign ministers who meet Sunday in Cairo would give "very strong support" to US-led military action.

"The Turkish position is also very important. Washington needs this support," the Istanbul-based official said.

"The coalition will get in touch with Arab countries and Turkey so that they cooperate as much as possible with the United States," he said."We will try to push these countries to take part in the military operation, which will greatly alleviate the suffering of Syrians."

'Syrian rebels take responsibility for the chemical attack admitting the weapons were provided by Saudis' - source

In an interview with Dale Gavlak, a Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press and Mint Press News, Syrian rebels tacitly implied that they were responsible for last week’s chemical attack. Some information could not immediately be independently verified.

“From numerous interviews with doctors, Ghouta residents, rebel fighters and their families….many believe that certain rebels received chemical weapons via the Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and were responsible for carrying out the (deadly) gas attack,” he writes in the article.

The rebels noted it was a result of an accident caused by rebels mishandling chemical weapons provided to them.

“My son came to me two weeks ago asking what I thought the weapons were that he had been asked to carry,” said Abu Abdel-Moneim, the father of a rebel fighting to unseat Assad, who lives in Ghouta.

As Gavlak reports, Abdel-Moneim said his son and 12 other rebels died in a weapons storage tunnel. The father stated the weapons were provided to rebel forces by a Saudi militant, known as Abu Ayesha, describing them as having a “tube-like structure” while others were like a “huge gas bottle.”

“They didn’t tell us what these arms were or how to use them,” complained a female fighter named ‘K’. “We didn’t know they were chemical weapons. We never imagined they were chemical weapons.”

“When Saudi Prince Bandar gives such weapons to people, he must give them to those who know how to handle and use them,” she warned. She, like other Syrians, do not want to use their full names for fear of retribution.

Gavlak also refers to an article in the UK’s Daily Telegraph about secret Russian-Saudi talks stating that Prince Bandar threatened Russian President Vladimir Putin with terror attacks at next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if Russia doesn’t agree to change its stance on Syria.

“Prince Bandar pledged to safeguard Russia’s naval base in Syria if the Assad regime is toppled, but he also hinted at Chechen terrorist attacks on Russia’s Winter Olympics in Sochi if there is no accord,” the article stated.

“I can give you a guarantee to protect the Winter Olympics next year. The Chechen groups that threaten the security of the games are controlled by us,” Saudi Prince allegedly told Vladimir Putin.

Mint Press News stated that some of the information couldn’t be independently verified and pledged to continue providing updates on this topic.

Voice of Russia, AFP, Reuters, Mint Press News

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