NPR : News

Syria's Bashar Assad: Show Me The Evidence

A defiant Syrian President Bashar Assad said Monday that the international community has not produced evidence to substantiate claims that his regime used chemical weapons in a deadly attack last month.

"Those who make accusations must show evidence. We have challenged the United States and France to come up with a single piece of proof. [Presidents] Obama and Hollande have been incapable of doing so," Assad told the French newspaper Le Figaro in an interview in Damascus.

Assad has made few public appearances and given few interviews since an uprising began more than two years ago. But with the U.S. and France favoring military action, the Syrian leader said such strikes could unleash much greater violence across the region.

"The Middle East is barrel of powder and today the flames are creeping closer. It is not just a question of the Syrian response but what else might happen after the first [Western] air strike," Assad said. "Everyone will lose control of the situation when the powder barrel explodes."

United Nations inspectors left Syria on Saturday after collecting evidence on the Aug. 21 attack that left more than 1,400 people dead in the eastern suburbs of Damascus. The U.N. findings have not yet been made public. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday that tests showed sarin gas was used, though he did not say who conducted the tests.

Obama, meanwhile, hosted two key Republican senators who have been pressing for a much tougher approach toward Assad.

John McCain of Arizona and Lindsay Graham of South Carolina emerged from the White House meeting and said it was critical that the president make a strong case to Congress if he hopes to win congressional backing for military action against Syria.

The senators support striking against Syria but said they want to see sustained U.S. efforts to degrade Assad's forces and upgrade the rebels.

Asked whether he supports U.S. efforts to arm the rebels, McCain said, "We should have done it two years ago."

The senator said the U.S. should specifically target the Syrian air force, which has been used to pound rebels throughout the country. However, like Obama, the senators stressed that they opposed sending any U.S. troops into Syria.

While McCain and Graham have been leading voices on Syria, they are considered to be among a small number in Congress who favor a relatively large-scale operation.

Obama is expected to face opposition from a larger number of Republicans and Democrats who are either against military action or are skeptical about what it might achieve.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Never Crossing The Botox Rubicon': Amanda Peet Explores Aging In Hollywood

NPR's Kelly McEvers speaks with actress Amanda Peet about her Lenny Letter essay, "Never Crossing The Botox Rubicon," and how to navigate aging in the image-obsessed entertainment industry.
NPR

When It Came To Food, Neanderthals Weren't Exactly Picky Eaters

During the Ice Age, it seems Neanderthals tended to chow down on whatever was most readily available. Early humans, on the other hand, maintained a consistent diet regardless of environmental changes.
NPR

4 Ways Donald Trump's Pro Wrestling Experience Is Like His Campaign Today

At least none of Trump's political opponents have been strapped down and had their heads shaved by him.
NPR

'The Guardian' Launches New Series Examining Online Abuse

A video was released this week where female sports journalists were read abusive online comments to their face. It's an issue that reaches far beyond that group, and The Guardian is taking it on in a series called "The Web We Want." NPR's Audie Cornish speaks with series editor Becky Gardiner and writer Nesrine Malik, who receives a lot of online abuse.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.