- Special Pages
WASHINGTON: The US ambassador to Syria said yesterday there is no evidence so far to back reports that chemical weapons were used in Syria on Tuesday, but the United States has a large team investigating the issue.
“So far, we have no evidence to substantiate the reports that chemical weapons were used yesterday. But I want to underline that we are looking very carefully at these reports,” Robert Ford, who was recalled from Damascus in February 2012, told a hearing of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee.
Separately, US and European officials said there was no confirmation that either the forces of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad or his rebel opponents had used chemical weapons, as each side had asserted.
“We can’t corroborate the CW claims at this point,” one US official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. If confirmed, it would be the first use of such weapons in the two-year-old conflict.
Lawmakers also expressed concern about growing Iranian military support for Assad’s government, and they pressed Ford on how the United States is pushing Baghdad over Iranian weapons pouring into Syria through Iraq.
“We have had very direct conversations with the Iraqis,” Ford said, listing meetings in Washington and the Iraqi capital. “We have been very direct with them about the importance of not allowing Iran to exploit the crisis in Syria, and how that is not helpful to Iraqi interests, as well as the region’s interests.”
Ford also said repeatedly in response to lawmakers’ questions that the US policy is not to provide military aid to the rebels.
Assad’s government and rebels accused each other of launching a deadly chemical attack near the northern city of Aleppo on Tuesday. Both sides demanded international investigations. [
The White House and the State Department expressed deep skepticism over the Syrian government’s claims regarding the rebels.