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Russia says Syria not using chemical arms, claims "fabricated"

Source: Reuters - Fri, 25 Apr 2014 11:58 GMT
Author: Reuters
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A woman, affected by what activists say was a gas attack, breathes through an oxygen mask inside a field hospital in Kfar Zeita village in the central province of Hama April 12, 2014 REUTERS/Stringer
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MOSCOW, April 25 (Reuters) - Allegations that Syrian government forces have used toxic chemicals are false, Russia said on Friday, and accused President Bashar al-Assad's foes of fabricating such claims to provoke foreign military intervention.

"Accusations against government forces of supposed cases of the use of poisonous chemicals continue to be fabricated," the Russian Foreign Ministry said, apparently referring to reports of chlorine gas attacks.

"The latest anti-Syrian chemical hysteria makes one wonder about the true aims of its initiators, who have not stopped their attempts to find a pretext for military intervention in Syria," the ministry said in a statement.

Russia has given Assad crucial support during the civil war in Syria. Moscow backed the Syrian government's denial that it was behind a devastating sarin gas attack last August, but also initiated a deal for Syria to abandon its toxic chemical stockpile in a move that averted potential U.S. air strikes.

The head of the global chemical weapons watchdog overseeing Syria's chemical disarmament, which is supposed to be complete by the end of June, is considering launching a fact-finding mission to investigate reports of chlorine gas attacks there, sources told Reuters on Thursday.

(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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