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 MattisShanahan orders new restrictions on sharing of military operations with Congress: report Pentagon reporters left in dark as Iran tensions escalate Trump officials slow-walk president's order to cut off Central American aid: report 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 TillersonTillerson meets with House Foreign Affairs Committee Overnight Defense: Trump rails against media coverage | Calls reporting on Iran tensions 'highly inaccurate' | GOP senator blocking Trump pick for Turkey ambassador | Defense bill markup next week Trump frustrated with advisers over Iran, wants to speak to leaders in Tehran: report MORE and Nikki HaleyNimrata (Nikki) HaleyWill Trump ignore the Constitution and stay in White House beyond his term? Trump taps ex-State spokeswoman Heather Nauert to help oversee White House fellowships Conservatives slam Omar over tweet on Gaza violence 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."