Assad: Idlib attack 100% fabricated, Syria destroyed all chemical weapons

The chemical incident in Idlib province blamed on Damascus was a “100 percent fabrication” as the Syrian military has already dismantled chemical weapons stockpiles, President Bashar Assad told AFP.

“Definitely, 100 percent for us, it's fabrication... Our impression is that the West, mainly the United States, is hand-in-glove with the terrorists,” President Assad told the French news agency in his first interview since the retaliatory US missile strike on a Syrian airbase in Shayrat.

“They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack,” he said.

 
© Mike Blake

According to Assad, the Syrian military dismantled all of its chemical weapons arsenal in 2013.

“There was no order to make any attack… We gave up our arsenal a few years ago. Even if we have them, we wouldn’t use them,” he added.

The Syrian leader said it was “not clear” if the alleged chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun, Idlib province, even took place.

“You have a lot of fake videos now. We don't know whether those dead children were killed in Khan Shaykhun. Were they dead at all?” he said.

Assad said the US Tomahawk strike on the Shayrat airbase was anything but efficient as it had little impact on the country’s military capabilities.

“Our firepower, our ability to attack the terrorists hasn’t been affected by this strike,” he said.

Assad urged the international community to launch an inquiry into the alleged Khan Shaykhun chemical attack, but added Damascus would only allow an “impartial” external investigation.

“We can only allow any investigation when it’s impartial, when we make sure that unbiased countries will participate in this delegation in order to make sure that they won’t use it for politicized purposes,” he said.

The Syrian leader also lashed out at the Trump administration, saying peace talks that would ensure a lasting truce in Syria have stalled because the US has no interest in ending the war.

“The US is not serious in achieving any political solution. They want to use it as an umbrella for the terrorists,” he said.

On Wednesday, Russia vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution which called for a speedy investigation into the Idlib incident.

Vladimir Safronkov, Russia’s deputy envoy to the UN, called the draft “unfounded,” and urged instead for an independent fact-finding mission to be dispatched to rebel-held Khan Shaykhun.

READ MORE: Russia vetoes West’s 'misconceived' Syria resolution at UN Security Council

Reports of dozens being killed in an alleged chemical attack emerged on April 4. Despite no investigation being carried out, the US and its Western allies put the blame for the incident on the Assad government.

Damascus denied its involvement, with Russia saying that the chemicals could have been released due to a conventional strike hitting a militant arms depot which contained “toxic substances.”

However, US President Donald Trump ordered a retaliatory airstrike on Friday, with 59 Tomahawk missiles fired at the Shayrat airbase in Homs province.

The attack killed 14 people, including nine civilians, and destroyed a material storage depot, a training facility, a canteen, six MiG-23 aircraft in repair hangars and a radar station.

READ MORE: US Tomahawk strike on Syria as effective as dropping missiles from air balloons – Russia’s MoD

The Russian Defense Ministry said that the American strike was “low efficiency,” and that only 23 missiles reached the targeted base.

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CNN uses anonymous source to push Syria/Russia 'chemical attack' conspiracy

An anonymous senior US official told CNN that, while the US allegedly has proof that Damascus is responsible for the chemical incident in Idlib, Syria, it has uncovered no such evidence implicating Moscow, because Russia is wilier in scrambling its communications.

The anonymous official reportedly told the American news channel that the US intelligence community had intercepted communications “featuring Syrian military and chemical experts talking about preparations for the sarin attack in Idlib last week.” While the source failed to provide any concrete details about the alleged communication – such when it was intercepted or what names or other information it contained – they did note that the US “did not know prior to the attack it was going to happen.”

 
Idlib, Syria April 4, 2017. © Ammar Abdullah

CNN speculated that the communication had been sent prior to the incident, but was not processed until the US began investigating it.

The source added that “there are no intelligence intercepts that have been found directly confirming that Russian military or intelligence officials communicated about the attack,” but noted “the likelihood is the Russians are more careful in their communications to avoid being intercepted.”

The most specific proof the source could come up with was his observation that Russia has a surveillance drone, which he claimed “flew over the hospital that was treating people injured in the attack.”

CNN suggested that even if the US had evidence of Russia’s involvement, it might not go public with it, as “the US feels right now that it has made the case that Russian support for [Syrian President Bashar] Assad must end.”

The report is the latest in a long series based on anonymous sources – with undisclosed agendas citing vague evidence which is never submitted to public scrutiny – that the mainstream media has deployed to level accusations against Russia. The story that Russia allegedly meddled in the US election has become a dominant narrative for opponents of Donald Trump, who are still trying to explain his surprise victory.

The major media outlets’ eagerness to blame Russia for everything occasionally leads to embarrassment, however. A fairly spectacular example came in January, when the Washington Post was forced to backtrack on a story that falsely claimed Russia had hacked into Vermont’s power grid. The newspaper also sparked outrage in December by touting a list of “Russian propaganda” websites, which turned out to include many respected independent media sources.

The alarming trend is not limited to the US media, however. Last year, the Guardian failed to accurately report on an Italian newspaper’s interview with Julian Assange. The British newspaper falsely painted WikiLeaks’ founder as a Trump supporter who would not criticize Moscow because he was presumably in league with the Russian government.

Some examples go back years. In 2014, the New York Times published photos of armed men, claiming that they were Russian troops on a clandestine mission in Ukraine. The newspaper had taken the images from the US State Department, and both had failed to properly verify them.

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World feels less secure with Trump – poll

The world feels less secure with Donald Trump as US president, a recent poll says, adding that the majority of respondents in Germany, France, the UK and Brazil said they feel less safe since the Republican took office.

The poll was conducted by TNS Global, one of the largest research agencies worldwide, for Sputnik International news agency between February 16 and 22, 2017.  

A total of 7,148 people across seven countries – France (1,004 people aged 16-64), Germany (1,014 people aged 16-64), Italy (1,050 people aged 16-54), Great Britain (1,037 people aged 16-64), the United States (1,027 people aged 18-64), Brazil (1,010 people aged 16-54) and Turkey (1,006 people aged 16-54) took part in the survey.

: Most expect world to become less safe with as US President

 

 

The respondents were asked one question: “Will the world be more or less secure with President Trump?”

Germany has the highest percentage of people – 72 percent – who doubt that the world will be secure with Trump. It’s followed by France (64 percent), Brazil (60 percent) and the UK (55 percent).

In the US, 45 percent said they feel “less secure” with Trump as president, while only 28 percent say they feel protected with him in power.

It’s been more than 80 days since Trump was sworn in as the 45th US president, with many of his decisions sparking controversy. In January, his executive order temporarily banning the citizens of seven Muslim-majority nations from entering the US caused outrage around the globe. Later, Trump revised the order and one of the banned countries, Iraq, was exempted from the list.

READ MORE: #IAmAMuslimToo protest in Times Square, anti-Trump rallies hit cities across US (VIDEOS, PHOTOS) 

Following his inauguration, Trump also signed an executive order authorizing construction of a wall along the US-Mexico border to control immigration, saying afterwards that Mexico will pay for the construction costs “one way or another.”

READ MORE: US govt agency to award contracts for construction of US-Mexico wall by mid-April

The first months of the Trump administration were also marked with numerous scandals after the mainstream press claimed that members of the president’s camp had numerous connections with Russian officials. In February, Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, stepped down after a scandal erupted involving his phone conversations with Russia’s ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak.

READ MORE: ‘AP’s malicious lie’: Russian tycoon denies dealing with Trump’s ex-aide to ‘benefit Putin’ 

The most-discussed of Trump’s moves so far, however, was his decision to fire 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Shayrat airbase controlled by the Syrian Army on April 7. Washington claimed the strike was in response to an alleged chemical attack in Syria’s Idlib province, for which the US blamed the Syrian government. Syrian officials said that the strike killed at least six people, including civilians, and wounded several others.

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San Bernardino elementary school shooting: two adults dead, police say

A shooting at an elementary school classroom in San Bernardino, California has left two adults dead and two students injured on Wednesday, according to law enforcement.

Police officials said that a shooting at North Park elementary school – which may have been a “murder-suicide” – has affected at least four victims, including a teacher.

The extent of the students’ injuries was not immediately clear Monday morning. Jarrod Burguan, chief of the San Bernardino police department, wrote: “We believe this to be a murder suicide. Happened in a classroom. Two students have been transported to the hospital.”

The shooting is believed to be a domestic dispute, a San Bernardino City Unified school district spokeswoman, Maria Garcia, told a local news station, KNBC.

“We believe the teacher knew who the shooter was,” she said.

Burguan wrote on Twitter that there was a large police presence at the site of the shooting and urged people to stay away from the area. Students, he added, were being transported to Cajon high school nearby.

@SBPDChief We believe this to be a murder suicide. Happened in a class room. Two students have been transported to the hospital.

The San Bernardino fire department tweeted that there were multiple victims with gunshot wounds and that “triage and victim count [is] taking place”.

The incident happened not far from the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, where a mass shooting in 2016 left 14 people dead.

 

 

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Syria Strikes Departure from Trump's 'America First' Agenda - Ex-CIA Director

Former CIA Director Michael Hayden called the missile strikes carried out by the United States against a Syria government airfield "a remarkable flip" from the policies US President Donald Trump spoke about during the presidential campaign.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The missile strikes carried out by the United States against a Syria government airfield last week marked a major departure from the policies US President Donald Trump spoke about during the presidential campaign, former CIA Director Michael Hayden said in an interview on Monday.

"What’s really remarkable is that [it’s] about as far away from ‘America first’ as you can get," Hayden stated on CNN. "That’s America doing something unilaterally for what I call the good of the order, rather than a narrowly-defined American self-interest. It was a remarkable flip from the man we saw in the campaign."

In 2013, Trump warned former President Barack Obama against military intervention in Syria.

On April 7, the US fired 59 tomahawk cruise missiles at Shayrat Air Base near the city of Homs in response to a chemical weapons attack against Syrian civilians.

Over Half of Americans Approve US Missile Strikes on Syrian Airfield - Poll

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Syrian Air Force Base Back in Operation One Day After US Missile Attack
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US completely unwilling to cooperate on Syria & consider other interests – Kremlin

Actions of the US in Syria demonstrate a “complete unwillingness” to cooperate and take into account “interests and concerns” of the other actors in the region, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.

“The US side thus has demonstrated a complete unwillingness to somehow cooperate on Syria and take into account each others' interests and concerns,” Peskov said, while commenting on the suspension of the Memorandum on Air Safety in the aftermath of the US missile strike on Syrian military airfield overnight on Thursday.

 
FILE PHOTO © Carlos M. Vazquez

The memorandum has lost its merit after the incident, Peskov said.

While the technical means to exchange military data with the US remained, there would be no further info swap, he added.

The Memorandum of Understanding on Flight Safety was signed in October 2015, after Russia came to Syria to fight international terrorism at the invitation of the country’s government. It was designed to prevent possible incidents between the Russian and US Air Forces operating independently in the region.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is scheduled to visit Moscow on April 11-12, although President Vladimir Putin does not have a meeting planned with him “so far,” according to Peskov. The only confirmed official contact with the Russian leadership on Tillerson’s agenda is with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

“So far there is no meeting with Tillerson on the president’s schedule,” Peskov told reporters in a phone call. “We never announce such meetings, whether they will take place or not – we won’t announce it.”

The Kremlin spokesman assured reporters though that if there is such a plan, media would be “properly notified.”

While Tillerson’s visit is expected to take place as planned, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson cancelled his own trip to Russia, citing the need to “talk with G7 counterparts” over “developments in Syria.” The Russian Foreign Ministry called the explanation for the last-minute cancellation “absurd.”

Washington has been sending mixed messages over the past few days following the missile strike. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the US envoy to the UN, Nikki Hayley, have lately expressed somewhat contradictory views on Syria. While both of them named the fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) a “top priority,” Tillerson said that the future of Syria and President Bashar Assad should be decided by the country’s people. Hayley, however, said that ousting Assad is still among the top priorities for Washington.

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Nicaragua Condemns Proposed Imperial US Sanctions as Irrational

The reintroduction of the “Nica Act” in U.S. Congress is seen as part of an ongoing threat to destabilize Nicaragua's government.

Nicaragua’s National Assembly on Thursday approved a statement to reject U.S. financial sanctions on the country, known as the “Nica Act,” which is seen as an attack to destabilize the country and President Daniel Ortega’s government.

RELATED: Here We Go Again: Washington's War on Democracy in Nicaragua

The statement against the sanctions was approved by 91 members of the National Assembly, from both members of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation, FSLN, and the opposition Constitutionalist Liberal Party.

“The Nica Act appears as a proposal, blind, deaf, and irrational, conceived by insensitive minds, troublemakers, and completely closed to recognize the rights of Nicaraguans to live away from the conflicts of the past,” the Nicaraguan statement read.

On Wednesday, a group of Congress members in the U.S. reintroduced the Nicaraguan Investment Act Conditionality Act, which will aim to slap Ortega's government with financial sanctions for alleged human rights violations and an erosion of democratic standards. The 71-year-old Ortega, a former Sandinista guerrilla who won with 72.5 percent of the vote in his November re-election, has been in Washington's crosshairs since the 1980s when President Ronald Reagan was in office.

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Sanctions could block Nicaragua from requesting loans from the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank, which currently contributes around US$250 million dollars annually to the country.

Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo labeled the move to reintroduce the act “reactionary and interventionist” and sought to “undermine the right of Nicaragua to continue developing the socialist model.”

RELATED: Meet the Sex Workers Replacing Cops in Sandinista-Run Nicaragua

Second Secretary of the National Assembly Wilfredo Navarro warned that the sanctions could roll back the achievements of the Ortega government, which has been able to reduce poverty, improve security, lower crime, stamp out illiteracy and boost economic growth. 

The Organization of American States last year urged U.S. Congress to reconsider the Nica Act, arguing that it would not be a “constructive contribution” to strengthen democracy in Nicaragua. OAS head Luis Almagro again reiterated these concerns on Wednesday in light of the act being introduced, even though he is leading efforts to undermine democracy in Venezuela. 

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Venezuelans on Alert in Light of Coup

Caracas, Apr 5 (Prensa Latina) The people and authorities of Venezuela on Tuesday showed that they are prepared to counter the coup plans designed in a script written by several authors who want to break the country's constitutional order.

It could be said that the opposition took to the streets en masse, or rather to a small portion of the capital's streets, where Henrique Capriles, the governor of the state of Miranda who visited Washington recently to receive orders and coordinate plans, has his domain.

However, the Chavist peaceful demonstration was larger and responded to the attacks by opposition sectors, who are trying to create an atmosphere of violence 'to justify' an intervention by its foreign protectors and supporters, as denounced by the popular leader Diosdado Cabello, when he warned against recent dangers for the country.

Evidence of the macabre plot against Venezuela is evident.

According to Marcos Roitman Rosenmann, a Chilean-Spanish essayist, university professor and a Ph.D. in political sciences and sociology, the conspiracy to break Venezuela's constitutional order is under way.

After the conversations between Admiral Kurt Tidd, who at the time was the commander-in-chief of the Miami-based U.S. Southern Command, and the incumbent secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, in January 2016, anything can be expected.

In that meeting, they talked about the coup plans and coordinated the action of regional bodies with one end: to undermine the legitimate power of the government of President Nicolas Maduro, Roitman pointed out.

Intelligence services, non-governmental organizations, private media corporation, radio, television, social networks, those that are involved today, must synchronize their actions to deal the final blow, the academic warned.

So far, everything goes as planned, according to the latest developments in the OAS and here in Venezuela.

The conspirators insist on inaugurating a parallel State, headed by the Parliament, in the hands of the opposition. The immediate work is to lay the foundations to make it viable. The strategy is to pressure the Judicial Power, to discredit its resolution and to force the government to take exceptional measures, so that they can justify the intervention to safeguard, curiously, the constitutional order, Roitman said in his analysis.

Of course, the U.S. Embassy in Caracas plays a key role in that labyrinth, as many conspirators go there to meet Tenny Smith, a high-ranking military officer who belongs to the defense intelligence agency, and Rita Buck Rico, who works at the political affairs section of U.S. foreign services, to receive instructions.

Meanwhile, a domestic campaign, focused on Parliament, which is in the hands of the opposition, is being prepared to request a foreign intervention, refusing to comply with its legislative function, which is to approve and develop laws. The maneuver is aimed at turning the National Assembly into the Executive Power.

However, so far, the enemies of the Revolution initiated by Commander Hugo Chavez have not counted on the civic-military unity of Venezuelans, so they will not be able to overthrow the government of Nicolas Maduro.

The plans to enforce the so-called OAS Democratic Charter have not materialized, despite the servility of some governments that have knelt to the new orchestra director in the United States, Donald Trump.

Notwithstanding, the setback in the so-called Ministry of Colonies may speed up the sedition, so the warnings made by the leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Cabello, against a foreign intervention and future bombings are important, because preparations for the coup are under way.

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