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Syria denies having chemical weapons after Macron threat

AFP  |  Damascus 

The today denied it possessed and branded the use of such arms "immoral and unacceptable", following a French warning of punitive strikes.

As dismissed suspicions of chlorine attacks on rebel-held areas including besieged Eastern Ghouta, the convoy since November entered the battered enclave near the capital.

"categorically denies possessing... chemical weapons," said Faisal Mekdad, quoted by state agency

"We consider the use of such arms as immoral and unacceptable, whatever the context."

Yesterday, Frances warned his country would launch strikes if proof emerged that the Syrian regime had used against its civilians.

According to Washington, at least six chlorine attacks have been reported since early January in rebel-held areas, resulting in dozens of

last month also denied carrying out and its ally denounced such charges as a "propaganda campaign", stressing the perpetrators had not been identified.

France, like the United States, suspects the Syrian regime but says it does not yet have concrete evidence on the nature and origin of the attacks.

has repeatedly been accused of using chemical weapons, despite a 2013 deal between the and for to destroy its stockpiles.

The was among those who blamed government forces for an April 2017 on the opposition-held village of that left scores dead.

In retaliation for that alleged attack, the carried out cruise missile strikes on a Syrian regime airbase.

As Assad's opponents ratcheted up pressure, there was some respite with the arrival of the convoy in months in rebel Eastern Ghouta after intensive bombardments last week killed 250 civilians.

"First UN and inter-agency convoy this year crossed conflict lines to Nashabieh in Eastern Ghouta to deliver food, health and nutrition supplies for 7,200 people in the besieged enclave," the UN humanitarian affairs office said.

Some 400,000 people live in the enclave outside Damascus where they have been under siege by the since 2013, facing and medicine shortages.

The is considering a draft resolution demanding a 30-day ceasefire in to allow for urgent deliveries of humanitarian aid.

and presented the draft, which would also demands an immediate end to sieges, including on Eastern Ghouta, after regime ally last week rejected as "not realistic" a similar appeal by UN aid officials.

The has said that violence in has only worsened since it first called for a truce last week, with "some of the worst fighting of the entire conflict" being witnessed.

Bashar al-Assad's forces have bludgeoned their way ahead with the help of Russian air power in the war that has claimed more than 340,000 lives since 2011.

Beyond pounding Eastern Ghouta, the regime is conducting an offensive in the northwestern Idlib province, the only one that had remained completely out of its grip.

Further to the north, is also carrying out a major operation in the Afrin region against Kurdish miltia that have received backing from the US.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, February 14 2018. 22:40 IST