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USA investigating possible sarin gas attacks in Syria: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says the US has no evidence that the Syrian government has used the deadly chemical sarin on its citizens despite reports from aid groups and others in the country.

American officials emphasized on Thursday that the United States was seeking a new way to hold chemical weapons-users accountable and wanted cooperation from Russia, Assad's patron, in pressuring him to end the attacks.

"We have other reports from the battlefield from people who claim it's been used", Mattis said, adding the U.S. now had no proof to back the claims.

The Syrian foreign ministry denied on Saturday US allegations it had used chemical weapons against rebel-held Eastern Ghouta enclave near Damascus, saying the accusations were "lies" without evidence.

The US and its allies are "desperately" searching for a pretext to target Syria, following the success of the Syrian army in its war against terror-designated militant groups across Syria, it pointed out.

Assad's government is believed to have kept part of its chemical weapons stockpile despite a US-Russian deal under which Damascus was supposed to have handed over all those weapons for destruction in 2014, the officials said.




"We are even more concerned about the possibility of sarin use".

The ministry also accused the US of fabricating the claims and of backing "terrorist groups" responsible for chemical attacks in the region.

"We are on the record and you all have seen how we reacted to that, so they would be ill-advised to go back to violating the chemical (weapons) convention", Mattis added. In the past two years, a joint United Nations and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) inquiry found the Syrian government used the nerve agent sarin and several times used chlorine as a weapon.

In 2013, Syria said it would give up all of its chemical weapons.

These reports said toxic gas has been used.

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