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Syria foreign minister accuses US of stoking violence

29 august 2012, 10:26
0
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem. ©REUTERS/Amr Dalsh
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem. ©REUTERS/Amr Dalsh
Syria's foreign minister accused the United States of being the "major player" encouraging anti-government rebels, but vowed the regime would not deploy chemical weapons in an interview published Tuesday, AFP reports.

Walid Muallem suggested to Britain's Independent newspaper that the US may be using Syria to curb Iran's influence in the Middle East and that it had exaggerated Tehran's nuclear capabilities in order to sell weapons to Gulf countries.

"We believe that the US is the major player against Syria and the rest are its instruments," he told journalist Robert Fisk.

When asked whether the US was using the Syria crisis against Iran, Muallem cited a recent study by influential Washington think-tank the Brookings Institution which concluded that "if you want to contain Iran, you must start with Damascus".

"We were told by some Western envoys at the beginning of this crisis that relations between Syria and Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, Syria and Hamas are the major elements behind this crisis," he told Fisk.

"But no one told us why it is forbidden for Syria to have relations with Iran when most if not all the Gulf countries have very important relations with Iran."

UN chief Ban Ki-moon demanded an independent inquiry Monday into the killings of hundreds of civilians in the Syrian town of Daraya as world outrage mounted over the "massacre" by pro-government forces.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 334 bodies had now been found in Daraya after what activists described as brutal five-day onslaught of shelling, summary executions and house-to-house raids by pro-government forces.

The Sunni Muslim town of some 200,000 people is seen as a stronghold of opposition to the minority Alawite-led regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Muallem accused the US of assisting the rebels' military effort by supplying them with telecommunication equipment, adding that it was supporting terrorism.

The minister played down suggestions that the Assad regime would resort to using chemical weapons if its authority was further weakened, saying the government's "responsibility is to protect our people."

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