News / Middle East

    Assad Thinks US Strikes Still Possible

    Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview in Damascus, Sept. 19, 2013.
    Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks during an interview in Damascus, Sept. 19, 2013.
    VOA News
    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is not ruling out the possibility of a United States military strike on his country despite agreeing to a deal requiring him to give up his chemical weapons.

    Speaking to Venezuela's Telesur television, President Assad said his government remains committed to the deal negotiated by the U.S. and Russia, which is in the final stages of being formalized by the United Nations Security Council.

    Assad said he sees "no serious obstacles" to the plan, but warned that terrorists, a phrase he uses to describe rebels, could try to prevent U.N. experts tasked with securing the government's chemical weapons stockpile from doing their job.

    The deal emerged after the U.S. threatened airstrikes to punish his government for a poison gas attack last month on a rebel-held area that killed hundreds. Assad denies carrying out the attack.

    The U.S. delayed the airstrikes after Assad agreed to the deal, but the Syrian leader told Telesur that the possibility of what he called U.S. "aggression" was always there, whether the "pretext" was chemical weapons or "something else."

    His comments, which aired late on Wednesday, came as U.N. chemical weapons inspectors returned to Syria to investigate multiple incidents where chemical weapons were allegedly used.

    The team of experts, led by Swedish chief Ake Sellstrom, has already determined that the deadly nerve agent sarin was used in the August 21 attack near Damascus. The investigators' mandate does not include assigning blame for any of the attacks.

    Meanwhile, in New York, diplomats are continuing to work on a U.N. Security Council draft resolution that would enforce the U.S.-Russian chemical weapons deal.

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met Tuesday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, but failed to agree on the key points of the document. The U.S. and Russian ambassadors to the U.N. are tasked with working out the final language.

    Russia opposes a resolution that mentions Chapter VII of the U.N. charter, which includes the use of military and non-military action to enforce decisions.

    Russia has long opposed the idea of military intervention, and has vetoed three attempts to sanction Syria at the U.N. Security Council.

    Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Tuesday the resolution could mention the Chapter VII article that permits force or sanctions only if the U.S.-Russia chemical weapons accord is violated by either side in the Syrian conflict.

    Photo Gallery: Latest Images from Syria 

    • A Free Syrian Army fighter watches after setting tires and other objects on fire to provide cover from snipers loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, in Aleppo's Salaheddine district, Sept. 25, 2013.
    • Free Syrian Army fighters prepare to fire a homemade rocket in Ashrafieh, Aleppo, Sept. 25, 2013.
    • This image taken from video from the Sham News Network shows Syrian opposition fighters firing at government forces near Daraa, Sept. 25, 2013.
    • Smoke rises from buildings after an airstrike hit in Habit village, Hama, Syria, Sep. 25, 2013.
    • Free Syrian Army fighters visit the grave of their comrade who was killed in a recent attack, in a cemetery in Duma neighborhood in Damascus, Sept. 25, 2013.
    • Civilians walk as smoke rises behind a mosque after what activists say was shelling from the Syrian regime in Aleppo's Bustan al-Qasr district, Sept. 23, 2013.
    • Boys walk on the rubble of damaged buildings in Duma neighborhood of Damascus, Sept. 23, 2013.
    • Aisha Masri helps a wounded man at Karaj al-Hajez crossing, a passage way separating Aleppo's rebel-controlled and regime-controlled neighborhoods, Sept. 23, 2013.
    • A Syrian man with more than half his body burnt from an air strike leaves a field hospital to go back home at a village turned into a battlefield with government forces in Idlib province, Sept. 22, 2013.
    • Free Syrian Army members prepare food for their fellow fighters in a kitchen located near the frontline in the al-Khalidiya neighborhood of Aleppo, Sept. 22, 2013.

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