Assad says he needs at least a year to eliminate chemical weapons
The president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, has promised to get rid of Syria’s entire supply of chemical weapons, telling US TV channel Fox News that the process would take up to a year and cost $1 billion. The interview comes after Russia and the US agreed on a draft resolution to the UN to neutralise Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons.
Assad told Fox News he planned to go through with destroying the stockpile but warned “it needs a lot of money…. It is very detrimental to the environment. If the American administration is ready to pay this money and take the responsibility of bringing toxic materials to the United States, why don’t they do it?”
Assad maintained that he was not acting in response to the threat of a US strike but because of an agreement with their ally, Russia, and on the strength of his own “conviction”. He was also defiant when asked about the chemical weapons attack that was allegedly carried out by his forces, saying: “The whole story doesn’t even hold together. It’s not realistic. So, no, we didn’t. In one word, we didn’t use any chemical weapons in Ghouta.”
The UN report into the 21st August attack, published on Monday, found that chemical weapons were used but did not state who used them. Russia responded to the report calling it “distorted and one-sided”, as they believe the Syrian government handed them evidence that proved conclusively it was carried out by opposition forces.
By contrast, Human Rights Watch believe the UN report does implicate Assad’s forces implicitly as it reveals the direction and trajectory from which the missiles used to deliver the sarin gas came from, which it claims originated from a Republican Guard base.
Nevertheless, if Assad goes through with his promise to eradicate his stockpile of chemical weapons, that must surely reduce the chances of US military action, as it would make it far less justifiable to a public whom a recent CNN poll found were largely against military intervention.