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Assad ‘has been warned’ on Idlib chemical use: Mattis

WASHINGTON: US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis stressed Tuesday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been well warned against any chemical weapons use in an anticipated assault on Idlib province. The Assad regime has twice been targeted by US air and missile strikes after previous alleged chemical attacks, and US officials have in recent days said additional action would follow if Assad were to use the banned weapons in rebel-held Idlib. "In Idlib, we're watching very closely what the Assad regime, aided and abetted…

Assad supporters rally in Damascus after Western strikes

DAMASCUS: Thousands of Syrians gathered Monday in Damascus in defiance of Western strikes on the country and to celebrate the regime reconquering a former rebel bastion outside the capital. The United States, France and Britain early Saturday targeted what they said were chemical weapon sites after an alleged toxic attack on Eastern Ghouta on April 7. Later Saturday, President Bashar al-Assad's army announced it had retaken the whole of the region east of Damascus from rebels after an almost two-month military assault.…

Syria chemical attack: what we know

An alleged chemical attack in Syria's rebel-held Douma has sparked international outrage, with Washington warning Sunday of possible military action, while Damascus and Moscow said the reports were mere "fabrications". What happened? Syria's White Helmets, who act as first responders in rebel-held areas of Syria, said the attack took place late on Saturday using "poisonous chlorine gas". "More than 500 cases -- the majority of whom are women and children -- were brought to local medical centres with symptoms indicative…

Assad regime promotes Syria as a ‘tourist’ destination

It is over a year since Bashar al-Assad's regime, with the help of Russian air strikes and barrel bombs, pounded the rebel-held east of Aleppo into submission. Buildings were flattened, those who survived were left terrorised, hungry and filled with despair, and the stench of dead bodies rose up from the rubble as families searched for their loved ones. Now, having largely destroyed the city it sought to control, the Assad regime wants the world to visit what remains: as a tourist destination. This week the Syrian…

Assad negotiators meet UN envoy at Syria peace talks

GENEVA: Syria's government met with United Nations envoys on Wednesday for talks aimed at ending the civil war, in a small boost for the negotiations that Damascus had threatened to boycott. The government had initially refused to confirm it would attend the talks, which began on Tuesday, after the rebels signalled they would continue to insist on President Bashar al-Assad's ouster. But a government delegation held initial meetings with UN mediator Staffan de Mistura in Geneva on Wednesday, reportedly after securing…

Putin informs Trump about talks with Assad: Kremlin

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday informed US counterpart Donald Trump of his talks with Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, saying Damascus is in favour of conducting parliamentary and presidential polls, the Kremlin said. "Vladimir Putin informed Donald Trump of the main results of a meeting with Bashar al-Assad that took place on November 20 at which the Syrian leader confirmed his commitment to the political process, (and) conducting constitutional reform and presidential and parliamentary elections," the…

Israeli defence minister says Syria’s Assad ‘victorious’

TEL AVIV: Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Tuesday that President Bashar al-Assad has been "victorious" in Syria's civil war and was now being courted by former enemies. "Assad has emerged victorious in the battle," Avigdor Lieberman told Israeli news website, Walla!. "Suddenly, everyone wants to get closer to Assad," he said. "I see that there is now a long line of countries applauding and wooing Assad, including Western (and) moderate Sunni Muslim (states)." Assad's fortunes have changed…

Syria’s Assad says chemical attack ‘100 percent fabrication’

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad said a suspected chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town was a "fabrication" to justify a US military strike, in an exclusive AFP interview. "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. They fabricated the whole story in order to have a pretext for the attack," Assad said Wednesday, in his first interview since American cruise missiles hit a central Syrian air base. He maintained…

Assad says ready to discuss everything, vows to take back all Syria

DAMASCUS: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said his government is ready to negotiate on "everything" in proposed peace talks in Kazakhstan but it was not yet clear who would represent the opposition and no date had been set. Assad also said a ceasefire brokered by Turkey and Russia, his most powerful ally, was being violated and the army would recapture all of Syria including a rebel-held area near Damascus where a vital water supply had been bombed out of service. He made the remarks in comments to French media that…