Turkey: Russia agrees to Syria chemical probe

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad warned that he would only allow an "impartial" external investigation of last week's suspected chemical attack, in an exclusive interview with AFP in Damascus.

However, during an interview with the AFP - which CNN notes was "conducted under restrictions imposed by" Assad's regime - the Syrian president claimed that reports about the attack on his people were false.

Assad rejected the notion that rogue elements of his own military might have carried out the alleged chemical attack without his control, saying that breakaway troops not only lacked the ability to launch aircraft but could not have accessed chemical weapons stockpiles that he previously relinquished.

He continued, "We don't know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Sheikhun". "No investigations, no concrete evidence about anything, the only thing were allegations and propaganda and then strike".

It's not clear whether it happened or not, how can you verify a video?

Samples taken from Khan Sheikhoun last week tested positive for the nerve agent sarin, the United Kingdom delegation at the global chemical weapons watchdog said on Thursday.

In his AFP interview, Assad accused the West, particularly the United States, of being "hand-in-glove with the terrorists" over the Khan Sheikhoun incident.

He also reiterated his call for any countries that were signatories to the Chemical Weapons Convention and which were "in a position to do so to share with the Secretariat any relevant information without delay".

"There was no order to make any attack, we don't have any chemical weapons, we gave up our arsenal a few years ago", Assad said. It marked the first time that the USA military directly struck against forces under the command of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the BBC notes.

"It's stage one, the play [they staged] that we saw on social network and TVs, then propaganda and then stage two, the military attack", he said, questioning the authenticity of the video footage.

Syria "continues to possess and use chemical weapons".

An investigation is now being requested by the OPCW.

The polarised positions were evident too at the UN Security Council on Wednesday, when Russian Federation vetoed a Western-drafted resolution that would have required Syrian cooperation in an investigation into the suspected chemical attack.

Meanwhile, Russian president Vladimir Putin said the "level of trust" had "not improved but has rather deteriorated" as Mr Tillerson urged the Kremlin to abandon its support for Mr Assad.

The UK result confirmed earlier testing by Turkish authorities that concluded sarin had been used for the first time on a large scale in Syria's civil war since 2013.

"They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack", added Mr Assad, who has been in power for 17 years.

The US had, until its Shayrat attack, limited its involvement in Syria to removing the so-called Islamic State (IS) from its stronghold in the city of Raqqa.

Mr Trump on Wednesday said he believed relations between Moscow and Washington were near rock-bottom.

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