Assad Defiant as Activists Report Surge in Syrian Government Attacks

The toxic gas attack on April 4, which killed scores of people including children, prompted a USA cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base and widened a rift between the United States and Russian Federation, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his conflict with rebels and militants fighting to oust him.

Assad said Syria, which is a signatory to the global Chemical Weapons Convention, would accept an "impartial" chemical attack probe to investigate the accusations against him.

Mr. Assad said the reports of a chemical attack by government forces were fabricated and he also questioned the authenticity of the video footage.

In an interview with the AFP news agency, conducted under restrictions imposed by the Syrian government at the presidential palace in Damascus, Assad claimed the reported details of what happened were not credible because their source was al-Qaeda's former affiliate in Syria, Nusra Front.

The April 4 attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun killed scores of people and prompted the United States to launch a cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base in response, its first direct assault on the Assad government in the six-year-old conflict. "We don't have any chemical weapons, we give up our arsenal three years ago".

The trio said that the probe should be carried out by a well-balanced team of experts under the auspices of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the United Nations chemical weapons watchdog, reported Xinhua news agency.

A man breathes through an oxygen mask as another one receives treatments, after what rescue workers described as a gas attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria on April 4.

"I couldn't believe at the beginning that Assad would use these weapons on his people", he said. I do not doubt the USA military's ability to level opposing military forces, but as we saw in Iraq, new governments have difficulty picking up what's left of their respective countries and actually maintaining them independently.

"Even if we have them, we wouldn't use them, and we have never used our chemical arsenal in our history".

"If you don't let people know what you're going to do, if you're inconsistent, that can actually signal resolve and credibility, because then people will be afraid of what you might do in the future", Lupton said.

Asked if he had ordered the chemical weapons attack, Assad said the Syrian military had no chemical weapons and that it would not use them if it did. That attack left more than 90 civilians dead and hundreds injured, according to activists and first responders.

He insisted several times that his forces had turned over all chemical weapons stockpiles in 2013.

"Those dead children. were they dead at all?"

The most recent chemical attack leveled by Assad killed an estimated 72 civilians, including 20 children.

The pair said there would be "no impunity" for those responsible for the attack, which they said was "highly likely" to have been carried out by Bashar Assad's regime.

The US could launch new strikes against Syria, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has warned as he told Moscow it still has time to be on the "right side of the argument" in the conflict.

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