SANA via AFP - Getty Images
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gesturing during an interview with Fox News in Damascus.
Syrian President Bashar Assad once again denied his military forces were responsible for deploying sarin gas in an horrific attack that sparked threats of a U.S. strike and was this week confirmed by the United Nations.
In an interview with Fox News that aired on Wednesday evening, Assad blamed terrorists for the chemical attack.
"You cannot use sarin beside your own troops," Assad said. He said he had evidence that has been turned over to Russia that the rebels have used chemical weapons, calling it a "kitchen gas" that anyone could make.
He said if chemical weapons were deployed it would be "a crime" and "despicable," but dismissed Western accusations that his government initiated the sarin attack in a Damascus suburb, saying it didn't add up.
"The whole story doesn't hold together. It isn't realistic," Assad said. "We didn't use any chemical weapons on Ghouta."
Despite his denials, Assad said that he supports the international effort to rid his country of its chemical weapons arsenal.
"We are committed to the full requirements of the agreement," he said.
Assad said he would work through the multi-step international process to rid Syria of chemical weapons, which he said would take about a year.
"I think it is a very complicated technically and it needs a lot, a lot of money. Some estimated about a billion," Assad said.
Asked if he would hand over Syrian chemical weapons to the United States, Assad appeared somewhat agitated and responded:
As I said, it needs a lot of money. It needs about 1 billion. 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?"
Greg Palkot, a Fox News correspondent, and former U.S. Rep Dennis Kucinich, a Fox contributor, conducted the interview.
It was the second interview with an U.S. television network that Assad has granted. Earlier this month, PBS’ Charlie Rose landed an one-on-one interview with the Syrian leader, where he made the same denials.
Since early 2011, the Assad regime has been embroiled in a violent civil war in which more than 100,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million people have fled to neighboring countries, according to the United Nations.
The U.N. on Monday issued a long-awaited report confirming the use of the nerve agent sarin — delivered by surface-to-surface missiles — on a suburb outside the Syrian capital Aug. 21 that the United States, Britain and France said proved Assad's forces were responsible.
The U.S. has said the attack may have killed more than 1,400 people, including hundreds of civilians, including children.
The chemical weapons use led President Barack Obama to call for U.S. military strike against Syria earlier this month.
Obama was seeking congressional support for such a strike, which administration officials said would be limited, when Russia and the United States agreed to a Moscow-proposed deal to eliminate Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal, an agreement approved by Syria.
On Wednesday, diplomats from the U.S., Russia, Britain, France and China were negotiating a Western-drafted resolution in the U.N. that would demand the destruction of Syria’s chemical stockpile.
Reuters contributed to this report.
First published September 18 2013, 7:38 PM