Syria rejects US accusations of chemical weapons use

Syria rejects US accusations of chemical weapons use
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The Syrian government on Saturday rejected U.S. allegations that it had used chemical weapons to attack rebel-held Eastern Ghouta last month.

In a statement to the Syrian state-run news agency SANA, the Syrian foreign ministry denied that it had used chemical weapons on its own people, and insisted that it had turned its chemical weapons stockpile over to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

The ministry also accused the U.S. of fabricating the claims and of backing "terrorist groups" responsible for chemical attacks in the region. 

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The foreign ministry's denial came a day after U.S. Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment Trump's pick to lead Pentagon glides through confirmation hearing Overnight Defense: Highlights from Defense pick's confirmation hearing | Esper spars with Warren over ethics | Sidesteps questions on Mattis vs. Trump | Trump says he won't sell F-35s to Turkey MORE accused the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad of repeatedly using chlorine gas to attack rebel-held parts of Syria.

Mattis also said on Friday that the U.S. government was concerned about the Syrian government's use of sarin gas, but acknowledged that he did not have evidence to prove that it was using the nerve agent. He said that nongovernmental organizations and fighters on the ground in Syria had reported sarin use, and that the U.S. was looking into the matter.

Washington said this week that it could consider military action against the Syrian government if it continued to use chemical weapons. Mattis hinted at such action on Friday, referencing a U.S. missile strike on a Syrian military airfield last year. That strike followed a deadly chemical weapons attack by Assad's government.

The U.S. has sought to step up pressure on the Syrian government in recent weeks over its use of chemical weapons.

Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonPress: Acosta, latest to walk the plank A brief timeline of Trump's clashes with intelligence director Dan Coats What is Trump's Iran end game? MORE and Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyAmerican women can have it all State denies report ex-spokeswoman received Fox salary while in administration Trump rules out Haley joining 2020 ticket MORE, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, blasted Russia last month for what they said was Moscow's failure to clamp down on the Syrian government's chemical weapons use. Russia is one of Syria's closest allies.

Russia has denied the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons, and has called the U.S. accusations "baseless."