Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Syria's Assad faces mounting pressure after chemical attack

Published:Friday | April 7, 2017 | 4:00 AM
Turkish experts evacuate a victim of alleged chemical weapons attacks in Syrian city of Idlib, at a local hospital in Reyhanli, Hatay, Turkey on Tuesday.

BEIRUT (AP):

President Bashar Assad's government came under mounting international pressure yesterday after a chemical attack in northern Syria, with even key ally Russia saying its support is not unconditional.

Turkey, meanwhile, said samples from victims of Tuesday's attack on the northern opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun, which killed more than 80 people, indicate they were exposed to sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent.

Syria rejected the accusations, and Moscow warned against apportioning blame until an investigation has been carried out.

Discussions, meanwhile, continued at UN headquarters on a Security Council resolution that would condemn the chemical attack.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview with The Associated Press that "unconditional support is not possible in this current world".

But he added that "it is not correct to say that Moscow can convince Mr Assad to do whatever is wanted in Moscow. This is totally wrong."

Russia has provided military support for the Syrian government since September 2015, turning the balance of power in Assad's favour. Moscow has used its veto power at the Security Council on several occasions since the civil war began six years ago, to prevent sanctions against Damascus.

The two countries "enjoy a relationship of cooperation, of exchange of views and full mutual support," said Peskov, a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin. Assad and his army are "the only real power in Syria that can resist terrorists on the ground," he said.

The Syrian government maintains it didn't use chemical weapons, instead blaming opposition fighters for stockpiling the chemicals. Russia's Defence Ministry said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons arsenal and munitions factory on the eastern outskirts of the town of Khan Sheikhoun.