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Obama gets Abe assurance on Syria stance

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed over the phone Tuesday their countries will cooperate over the Syrian conflict as Obama continued efforts to gain congressional support for a military strike against President Bashar Assad’s regime over its alleged use of chemical weapons.

During the 30-minute conversation initiated by Washington, the two leaders also confirmed that, based on humanitarian grounds, the use of chemical weapons cannot be condoned under any circumstances.

Obama hopes to gain congressional approval for a possible U.S. strike against Assad’s government over its apparent use of nerve gas, apparently sarin, on the outskirts of Damascus on Aug. 21. TV footage apparently showed victims of the gassing, some in convulsions.

Envoy in WMD denial

staff report

Warif Halabi, acting Syrian ambassador to Japan, urged the international community Tuesday to wait for the results of a U.N. probe and not jump to the conclusion that President Bashar Assad’s regime used chemical arms against the Syrian people, claiming it didn’t and wouldn’t resort to using weapons of mass destruction.

During a press conference at the Syrian Arab Republic Embassy in Tokyo, Halabi said allegations by the U.S. and other nations that the Assad regime was behind the Aug. 21 nerve gas attack on civilians near Damascus is untrue and added that any military retaliation by the U.S. and its allies would only benefit terrorist groups, including al-Qaida.

“Everyone is accusing us, our government, saying that we are doing something guilty . . . ,” Halabi said. “We want the international community to wait for the result of the U.N. (on-site investigation). The results can be presented to the U.N. Security Council or any other necessary bodies dealing with this issue. Then, they can decide whether we are really guilty or not.”

The briefing was held at the Assad regime’s behest, Halabi said.

According to the White House, the chemical weapons attack Damascus claimed the lives of 1,429 civilians, including over 400 children. U.N. investigators wrapped up their on-site investigation last weekend and are analyzing the evidence they collected.

Halabi said the U.S. should show the world concrete proof rather than presenting just a written report if it is really confident of what took place. The Assad regime also has submitted evidence to the U.N. that proves terrorist groups were behind the gassing of civilians, she added.

“If the U.S. and its allies want to launch military acts, we are ready and we will not withdraw . . . we will respond,” Halabi said.