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Salem Radio Network News Friday, February 23, 2018

World

The Latest: Syria says it has no chemical weapons

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on Syria related developments (all times local):

8:10 p.m.

Syria’s ambassador to the U.N. says his government will not recognize any constitutional reform body formed outside the framework of a Russian-led peace initiative for his country.

Bashar Jaafari’s remarks to the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday appeared to rebuff efforts by U.N. Envoy Staffan De Mistura to facilitate and mediate constitutional reform for Syria, one of the guiding principles of a 2015 Security Council roadmap for peace for Syria.

Jaafari’s remarks echoed an earlier statement by Assistant Foreign Minister Ayman Sousan who said de Mistura had no authority to select delegates to a constitutional committee for Syria.

Assistant Foreign Minister Ayman Sousan said Tuesday that only participants in a Russian-led “Syrian Congress of National Dialogue” convened in Sochi last month could be delegates on a constitutional committee. Several members of the Syrian opposition refused to attend the Sochi conference.

De Mistura has said the Sochi congress delivered a mandate to allow him to convene a constitutional committee with members from the broader Syrian opposition.

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4:25 p.m.

Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister says allegations that Syria is using chemical weapons are an attempt to “justify hostile acts.”

Faisal Mekdad denied Wednesday in comments published on the state news agency that his country possesses any chemical weapons. He said current campaigns against Syria have increased in response to Damascus’ battlefield successes.

Mekdad accused the U.S. threatening Syria’s stability and sovereignty, calling its rare strikes against pro-government forces earlier this week a “war crime.” The U.S. said the strikes were in self-defense, after pro-government troops encroached on its allies and advisers in eastern Syria.

Also on Wednesday, Mekdad said the Kurdish enclave in northwestern Syria under Turkish attack is “is an integral part of the Syrian territories,” adding that they “will never give up one centimeter of these territories.” He also urged the Arabs and the Kurds in the area to unite to face what he called “Turkish aggression.”

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1:45 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron has said that he will order strikes in Syria if there is “proven evidence” that President Bashar Assad’s government used chemical weapons against civilians.

Macron told reporters on Tuesday evening France “will strike the place where they are launched or where they are prepared.”

He acknowledged that French intelligence services don’t have the necessary proof to this day that “chemical weapons banned by the treaties have been used against civilian populations.”

Since the beginning of the year, there have been some reports of suspected chlorine attacks in Syria — including at a rebel-held town in February where several were treated for breathing problems.

France said chemical analysis of a deadly sarin gas attack in Syria last April bore “the signature” of Assad’s government.

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