Assad hails Russia's 'supportive' stance

Damascus/Berlin/United Nations, Sep 18 (IANS) Syrian President Bashar al-Assad Wednesday hailed Russia's stance toward Damascus as giving hope for a new roadmap leading to "global balance".

Assad made the remarks during his meeting with visiting Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov, who talked with Syrian officials on the recent Russian-US deal that aimed at settling chemical attack crisis in Syria, Xinhua reported citing state-run SANA news agency.

The Syrian issue has become a priority to Russia, Ryabkov said, adding that consultation and coordination must be maintained between the Russian and Syrian leadership.

In a separate meeting Wednesday with an American delegation which consisted of ex-Congressmen, activists and journalists, Assad slammed the US policies in the region which he said were based on unleashing wars and interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries.

He said such policies run counter to the interests of the US people.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad was cited by SANA as saying that Syria is keen about any initiative that can be conducive to finding a solution and stopping the aggression against Syria.

In another development Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said that evidences indicate that the Syrian government was behind the chemical weapons attack in August.

Westerwelle said in an interview published by the Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that research from the UN inspectors confirms Germany's assumptions that only the government of President Bashar al-Assad could have "the equipment and abilities to carry out the poison gas attack", Xinhua reported.

The foreign minister's comments brought Germany's position on the issue closer to the stance taken by the US, France, and Britain which believe the Syrian government forces had carried out the attack.

However, Germany has ruled out joining any military strike against Syria.

On the other hand, Russia's Permanent Representative to the UN Vitaly Churkin said Tuesday that the chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus Aug 21 could have been avoided.

Speaking at the first meeting of the 68th session of the UN General Assembly, Churkin said the attack could have been avoided had the use of toxic agents near Aleppo March 19 been promptly investigated, ITAR-TASS reported.

"The tragedy in Ghouta could have been avoided if the use of chemical weapons in Aleppo March 19 had been promptly investigated," he said, stressing that the Syrian request to the UN for investigation into the incident was "strongly supported" by Russia.

The diplomat said that "the organisation of such an investigation then ran into manipulations by a number of states" that attempted to "divert" UN attention from it and focus on other "dubious cases".

But that did not prevent Russian experts from studying the case, the envoy said.

According to the findings of the Russian investigation, "the extremist anti-government forces are behind the use of chemical weapons in Aleppo", he stressed.

Churkin said that Russia hoped that the UN inspectors, having completed their work in Ghouta, would without delay return to the investigation of the originally specified three cases on the use of chemical weapons, including the March 19 case in Aleppo.

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