State Department

Kerry on Assad's chemical weapons claim: 'Please'

Sept. 19, 2013: Secretary of State John Kerry makes a statement about Syria and chemical weapons in Washington.

Sept. 19, 2013: Secretary of State John Kerry makes a statement about Syria and chemical weapons in Washington.  (AP)

Secretary of State John Kerry, after Syrian President Bashar Assad claimed in an interview with Fox News that his regime did not use chemical weapons, ridiculed the Syrian president and his allies for claiming the rebels might have been behind last month's attack -- as he urged the United Nations to get tough when it convenes next week. 

Kerry had a pithy response to the assertions of Assad and the Russian government that the opposition used sarin gas: "Please." 

"Sarin was used. Sarin killed," he said Thursday. "The world can decide whether it was used by the regime, which has used chemical weapons before, the regime which had the rockets and the weapons. Or whether the opposition secretly went unnoticed into territory they don't control to fire rockets they don't have, containing sarin that they don't possess, to kill their own people." 

To the international community, Kerry said: "This isn't complicated." 

Kerry made a surprise appearance at the daily State Department briefing on Thursday ahead of the U.N. meeting next week in New York, where U.S. diplomats will continue working on a U.N. resolution to enforce a newly struck agreement that would have the Assad regime turn over its chemical weapons to international control. 

But Kerry was evidently frustrated by the sustained claims by the Syrian and Russian governments that Assad's regime was not behind the deadly attack on Aug. 21 which prompted the stand-off with the U.S. 

In an interview with Fox News that was aired Wednesday, Assad admitted he has chemical weapons but adamantly denied that his government was behind the attack, continuing to push the theory that the opposition was behind the strike. 

"We have evidence that terrorist groups (have) used sarin gas," he said. "The whole story (that the Syrian government used them) doesn't even hold together. ... We didn't use any chemical weapons." 

In the interview, Assad was confronted with the newly released findings of a United Nations report on the Aug. 21 attack. The report said there is conclusive evidence that the chemical attack occurred. It did not assign blame, but included findings about the type of rocket used which the U.S. and its allies claim point to Syrian government culpability. 

Russia also criticized the report this week. 

But Kerry said the nations cannot "have their own set of facts." 

"This fight about Syria's chemical weapons is not a game," he said. "Anybody who reads the facts (in the U.N. report) and puts the dots together ... understands what those facts mean."