Syria denies US allegations of new chemical attack

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(File, AP)
(File, AP)

Beirut - The Syrian government on Tuesday dismissed White House allegations that it was preparing a new chemical weapons attack, as activists reported an airstrike on an Islamic State-run jail in eastern Syria that they said killed more than 40 prisoners.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said at least 15 militants were also killed in the airstrike that happened in the Deir El-Zour province. The activist-run Deir Ezzor 24 media outlet said at least 60 civilians were killed.

The two groups said the US-led coalition was behind the strike. Russia and Syria also carry out airstrikes in Deir el-Zour and it was not clear how the activists identified the aircraft responsible.

Ali Haidar, the Syrian minister for national reconciliation, meanwhile dismissed a White House statement that warned Syrian President Bashar Assad's government against carrying out another chemical attack. Haidar said the charges foreshadowed a new diplomatic campaign against Syria at the UN.

Cruise missile

The Kremlin also dismissed the White House statement, which had warned that Assad and his military would "pay a heavy price" if it goes ahead with the attack. Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that "such threats to Syria's legitimate leaders are unacceptable".

Russia is Assad's key backer and sided with him when he denied responsibility for a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of people in Idlib province on April 4. Days later, President Donald Trump ordered a retaliatory cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base.

Peskov criticised the Trump administration for using the phrase "another chemical weapons attack," arguing that an independent investigation into the April attack was never conducted despite Russia's calls for one.


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