Chemical weapons would be political suicide: Syria official
DAMASCUS – Agence France-Presse
A girl feeding from a bottle, as a man affected by what activists say was a gas attack breathes through oxygen mask, at a medical center in the Damascus suburbs of Saqba, August 21, 2013. REUTERS photoUsing chemical weapons to strike rebels at the same time a team of UN inspectors is working in Syria would be "political suicide", a high-ranking Syrian security source said Thursday.
Wednesday "was the first day of the UN mission's work, and using chemical weapons at this time would have been political suicide", the source told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"All analysts say that it is not in our current interest to use chemical weapons while the commission is on the ground," he added.
Syria's opposition accused President Bashar al-Assad's regime of massacring more than 1,300 people in chemical attacks on several rebel areas near Damascus on Wednesday.
"The aim of these accusations is to undermine the experts' work and to muddy the waters," the source said.
"The army continues to advance in its efforts to end terrorism and we see no need to use such weapons. They (the opposition) are trying to cover up the army's successes with such lies," he added.
UN inspectors arrived in Damascus on Sunday with a strict mandate to investigate three sites for the alleged use of chemical weapons.
They are Khan al-Assal in the northern province of Aleppo, where rebels and the army blamed each other for using chemical weapons in March, as well as Ataybeh near Damascus and Homs in central Syria.
The UN said Wednesday that the chief of the inspectors' team Aake Sellstroem had begun talks with the Syrian government over the possibility of investigating Wednesday's incidents.
During a closed-door meeting on Wednesday, the UN Security Council sought "clarity" on the claims, said Argentina's UN envoy, the council's current president.
Council members -- who were briefed by Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson -- "welcomed the determination of (Secretary General Ban Ki-moon) to ensure a thorough, impartial and prompt investigation," she said.