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Iran's ex-prez: Assad was the gasser, or not

Is the former president of Iran blaming the Syrian government for attacking its own people with chemical weapons?

An Iranian news agency quoted former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as assigning blame on the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, but then later swapped its report with a differing version that didn’t mention the party responsible.

According to Lebanon’s Daily Star, the second version by the semi-official Iranian Labor News Agency reported Rafsanjani as saying on Sunday: “On the one hand the people of Syria are the target of a chemical attack, and now they must wait for an attack by foreigners.”

But the earlier version had a different quotation, saying: “The people have been the target of a chemical attack by their own government and now they must also wait for an attack by foreigners.”

The remainder of the purported remarks by Rafsanjani said: “Right now America, the Western world along with some of the Arab countries are nearly issuing a clarion call for war in Syria – may God have mercy on the people of Syria.”

“The people of Syria have seen much damage in these two years, the prisons are overflowing and they’ve converted stadiums into prisons, more than 100,000 people killed and millions displaced show the plight of Syria more than ever before,” he added.

The Daily Star reports a spokesman for Rafsanjani denied the former president had ever made the remarks, labeling the comments “distorted.”

“Mr. Hashemi’s statement has been distorted,” Reza Soleimani, the director of public relations for the Expediency Council, which Rafsanjani heads, said in remarks carried by several Iranian media agencies.

“Mr. Hashemi’s stance on Syria, Palestine and Lebanon is clear,” Soleimani said.

The purported comments appeared on the Facebook page of Naeimeh Eshraghi, the granddaughter of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomenei, prompting the denial.

Iran is a strong supporter of Assad, whom the U.S. claims killed 1,400 people with poison gas outside Damascus Aug. 21.

Rafsanjani is a close ally of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.