Syria vows to defend itself in case of strikes

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Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem AFP

DAMASCUS — Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem vowed on Tuesday that his country will defend itself in case of any Western military strikes against it.

“We have two options: either to surrender, or to defend ourselves with the means at our disposal.

The second choice is the best: we will defend ourselves,” Muallem said in a televised news conference.

Muallem said that his country had defenses that would “surprise” the world, and that any such action against it would serve the interests of Israel and Al-Qaeda.

“Syria is not an easy case. We have defenses which will surprise others,” he said.

“The war effort lead by the United States and their allies will serve the interests of Israel and secondly Al-Nusra Front,” an Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group in Syria, said Muallem.

He challenged Western states to present evidence that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons.

“We are hearing war drums around us. If they want to launch an attack against Syria, I think using the excuse of chemical weapons is not true at all. I challenge them to show what proof they have,” Muallem said.

The foreign minister was speaking as the United States and its allies edged closer to launching strikes against the Syrian regime amid accusations it used chemical weapons against its own people.

The moves came after a team of UN arms experts collected evidence from the site of the alleged chemical weapons attacks on the outskirts of Damascus August 21, which reportedly killed more than 300 people.

The inspectors had been due to visit the sites again on Tuesday, but Muallem said their trip had been postponed until Wednesday because rebels failed to guarantee their security.

“Today, we were surprised by the fact that they were not able to get there because the rebels did not agree to guarantee the mission’s security. So the mission has been delayed until tomorrow,” said Muallem.

The group was originally due to leave Syria on Sunday, but their stay could be extended as they investigate allegations of chemical weapons use in the brutal 29-month conflict.

Originally posted at 7:04 p.m.

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