Al Jazeera America – 2013-09-03 02:05:47
(September 2, 2013) — Syrian President Bashar al-Assad described the Middle East as a “powder keg” Monday, saying the region would “explode” if the United States and its allies execute a military strike on Syria. His warning came as the Obama administration pushed legislators to approve punitive military action over last month’s alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus.
“The Middle East is a powder keg and the fire is approaching today,” Assad told French newspaper Le Figaro.
“You can’t only talk about what the Syrian response will be, but what could happen after a first strike. And no one knows what would happen. Everyone will lose control of the situation when the powder keg explodes,” he said.
“Chaos and extremism will be widespread,” he warned. “The risk of a regional war exists.”
Assad said he did not regard the people of France as enemies, but described the country’s policies as “hostile.” France has indicated that it would support a US-led strike on military targets in Syria.
“There will be repercussions, of course negative, on France’s interests” if that happens, Assad said.
A declassified French intelligence report released Monday pinned responsibility for last month’s chemical weapons attack on the Assad government.
“The Syrian regime launched an attack on some suburbs of Damascus held by units of the opposition, combining conventional means with the massive use of chemical agents,” it said.
“We believe the Syrian opposition does not have the capacity to carry out an operation of such magnitude with chemical agents.”
Earlier Monday, Syria’s UN Ambassador Bashar Ja’afari asked the United Nations to prevent “any aggression” against the country.
In a letter to UN chief Ban Ki-moon and President of the Security Council Maria Cristina Perceval, he urged “the UN Secretary General to shoulder his responsibilities for preventing any aggression on Syria and pushing forward reaching a political solution to the crisis in Syria,” state news agency SANA reported.
He called on the Security Council to “maintain its role as a safety valve to prevent the absurd use of force out of the frame of international legitimacy.”
Washington says more than 1,400 people, many of them children, were killed in what many believe to be the world’s worst use of chemical arms since Iraq’s Saddam Hussein gassed thousands of Kurds in 1988.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been the public face of the administration as it lays out evidence to bolster the claim that the Syrian government used chemical weapons, made the rounds on the Sunday talk shows to further the case.
“This is squarely now in the hands of Congress,” Kerry told CNN, saying he had confidence lawmakers “will do what is right because they understand the stakes.”
International governments have in recent days opted against military actoin.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her opposition in the nation’s upcoming elections joined Britain in rejecting proposed intervention in Syria in a televized debate Sunday.
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