The Syrian government Friday called White House allegations that it has used chemical weapons in the country’s civil war “full of lies,” according to state media reports.
Syria’s Foreign Ministry instead blamed such attacks on “terrorist” groups, the term it uses to refer to the opposition.
U.S. officials said Thursday that President Bashar Assad’s government had crossed a “red line” by using the nerve agent sarin in attacks this year, and that President Obama had authorized sending arms to some rebel groups.
The announcement came at a time when the Syrian government has been making some strategic gains in the conflict, now in its third year, including regaining control of Qusair, a town near the Lebanese border that falls along important supply lines.
"Pursuant to impudent practices, the United States has previously resorted to in order to justify its policies, the ... White House issued a statement full of lies on chemical weapons use in Syria and based on fabricated information," a Foreign Ministry official told the official Syrian Arab News Agency.
The official, whose name was not provided, slammed the White House decision to lift the American arms embargo on the rebels, saying the U.S. would now have "direct involvement in the shedding of the Syrian people's blood."
A U.S. official said Thursday that weapons will be provided to the Supreme Military Council, which oversees many but not all of the armed groups fighting in Syria.
The rebels, who are outgunned by the government, have been calling for more than a year for more lethal aid to defend themselves against warplanes, helicopters and Scud missile attacks.
But they are not likely to be impressed if the United States only provides them small arms and not the anti-tank and antiaircraft weapons they have been requesting.
In a statement Friday, the Syrian National Coalition, the main political opposition group, said that it "welcomes increased U.S. assistance, including direct military support.”
“The support should be strategic and decisive in order to force an end to the violence and to achieve a political transition," the statement said.
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