US berates Syria at OPCW meeting on Syrian chemical attack

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has accused the US of fabricating evidence to support last week's strikes on a government airfield, telling AFP in an interview that his government handed over all its chemical weapons in 2013 and could not have been responsible for an alleged chemical attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun.

Assad said Syria would only allow an "impartial" investigation into the poison gas incident. "We condemn any use of chemical weapons", said the Syrian top diplomat.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has outlined Moscow's dissatisfaction in a letter to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons Director General Ahmet Uzumcu with its fact-finding mission into the reported April 4 chemical attack in Syria, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said.

They both backed an independent investigation by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) into the recent deadly chemical incident in Syria's Idlib.

"The Syrian government repeatedly said it does not have chemical weapons".

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Syria strongly denied it was behind the April 4 chemical attack on Khan Sheikhoun, which killed 87 people.

He said investigators have collected samples that have been sent for analysis.

But in a statement Thursday, the OPCW said its Director-General Ahmet Uzumcu told the meeting at the group's headquarters in The Hague that the preliminary assessment by OPCW experts investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons was "that this was a credible allegation". "This story is not convincing by any means", he told the AFP.

Lavrov on Friday expressed skepticism about a preliminary investigation conducted by the U.N.'s chemical weapons watchdog. Moscow offered the explanation that regime aircraft hit a chemical weapons facility controlled by rebels on the ground. "It could happen anytime, anywhere, not only in Syria".

But he said his forces had not been diminished by the USA strike.

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Russia, Iran and Syria unanimously regarded the United States missile strikes as an aggression in brutal violation of global law and the UN Charter, Lavrov noted.

Lavrov was meeting with his counterparts from Syria and Iran in a show of support for Damascus after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Moscow earlier this week.

It was the 8th time Russian Federation has used its veto power.

Information for this article was contributed by Rick Gladstone of The New York Times; by Louisa Loveluck of The Washington Post; and by Mike Corder, Vladimir Isachenkov and staff members of The Associated Press.

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