DAMASCUS, Syria – Syria will allow United Nations inspectors into the country to investigate the origin of the chemical weapon Sarin that may have been used in a recent attack on Aleppo, where some 15 Syrian military troops died along with a number of civilians.
In an interview with WND, Syrian Prime Minister Wael Nader al-Halqi said that immediately following the incident, Syria requested a U.N. investigation and then followed up with a second request.
However, he said, the U.N. hasn’t responded to either request.
He said that Syria is ready to commit to whatever the U.N. wants, “mindful of the experience in Iraq” in which then-President Saddam Hussein refused further intrusive U.N. inspection teams to look for weapons of mass destruction. That then prompted U.S. military action in March 2003.
He said, however, that the U.N. has now asked for the ability to go anywhere in Syria, which al-Halqi said was made at the request of the United States and may have been the reason why the U.N. had not responded to the Syrian government’s two previous requests.
Late separate reports suggest that a U.N. team staged in Cyprus is prepared now to go into Syria to conduct the inspection, although a leading member of a U.N. commission of inquiry, Carla Del Ponte, said that evidence suggests that Syrian rebels may have “used Sarin,” which is a nerve agent that can be delivered in artillery shells, among other means of delivery.
Del Ponte had said there was “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof” that the rebels initiated the Sarin attack, although the U.N. has not entirely endorsed Del Ponte’s preliminary findings.
Sarin is a colorless, odorless liquid or gas that attacks the respiratory system and can lead to death. It is banned under international law as a weapon of mass destruction, or WMD.
The Russian foreign ministry which backs the Syrian government said that allegations from Israel and the United States on the Syrian government’s possible use of Sarin are “signs that world public opinion is being prepared for possible military intervention” into Syria.
However, al-Halqi was adamant that the Syrian government did not use Sarin on its own population, and insisted that it came from “terrorists,” referring specifically to the foreign fighters who are thought to have the capability of handling and using Sarin.
“There is no rational human being that would think the Syrian army would inflict casualties on itself,” considering that some 15 Syrian army soldiers were killed in the explosion.
“Syria will never use chemical weapons against its citizens,” al-Halqi insisted.
Al-Halqi, who previously was the minister of health, has been prime minister since August 2012.
Al-Halqi, a mild-mannered person who spoke without notes, gave an extensive litany of statistics and information on what he considers to be the outside threat to his country.
He further claimed that the weapons with Sarin were “manufactured in Turkey and funneled to the terrorists.”
He went on to say that the Syrian government has YouTube and other captured videos, including those from captured cell phones, showing armed terrorist groups testing Sarin on rats, as well as launching attacks on the Syrian population.
Al-Halqi was firm in claiming that foreign fighters not only were behind the Sarin attack but said the Sunni Salafis affiliated with al-Qaida and its offshoot in Syria, the al-Nusra group from al-Qaida in Iraq, are primarily behind the attacks underway in the country now.
He said that some 65,000 tons of heavy weapons have been funneling into Turkey from Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Turkey, which like these countries is Sunni, backs Saudi efforts to remove the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power and replace it with a Sunni regime.
Al-Assad is a Shi’ite al-Alawite, although the majority of the Syrian population is Sunni.
Many of the weapons, he said, have been captured, including some from Israel which included “Stingers” and anti-tank rockets and mortars.
He said that the foreign fighters are targeting primarily the country’s industrial and health infrastructures, either by destroying them or “stealing the equipment and sending it into Turkey.”
He said that of the 72 pharmaceutical factories in the country, some 22 of them have been completely dismantled and sent into Turkey.
“The question,” he asked, “is why?” In answering his own question, he said the purpose is to take “Syria’s industrial competitiveness into Turkey.”
He said the terrorists also are preventing farmers from reaching their fields, stealing full silos of grain and other agricultural goods, and sending it to Turkey. As a consequence, he said, Syria now needs to import food for its population.
By preventing farmers from planting in season, he said, they are harvesting only 10 percent of what the country used to grow.
In venturing along the streets of Damascus amid the fortified bunkers and armed checkpoints, small shops displayed fresh fruits and vegetables while restaurants and other commercial shops remained open despite the frequent surprise shelling on the city.
However, outside Damascus, the government is attempting to send in food, medicines and other basic necessities to the Syrian population, even in rebel-occupied areas.
“Despite the crisis,” al-Halqi said, “the government still is doing its duty to its people” by handling more than a million internally displaced persons, providing shelters despite the destruction of many of the some 775 sheltering centers around the country.
He said the government still pays its employees even in the restive areas.
Al-Halqi reaffirmed that Syria is working toward a multi-party system which the Syrian opposition in the government said that it has been trying to do since 2005.
The prime minister remains defiant in the face of what he believes is outside aggression by Western powers using foreign fighters as proxies.
Syria is the “axis of resistance,” al-Halqi said, reaffirming that the al-Assad regime will survive despite heavy Western pressure to topple it.
He said he’s personally met with opposition groups who eventually put down their arms.
“The door’s always open to armed groups if they lay down their arms,” al-Halqi said.
Indeed, a visit to the old quarter of Damascus showed members of the unarmed opposition encouraging armed opposition members to return.
One opposition fighter who returned signed a pledge to lay down his arms and said that he and others are coming back because the al-Nusra armed fighters look upon the Syrian rebels as “infidels,” making them concerned for their own lives.