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Syria Denies Chlorine Gas Use

FILE - Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad gestures as he talks to journalists.

A top Syrian official has denied allegations his government has used chlorine gas in the country's civil war, even as accusations continue.

Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad blamed reports of Syrian government use of chlorine gas on Islamic State militants and their regional supporters, and countered that IS forces have been using chlorine as a chemical weapon in Syria and Iraq.

Mekdad spoke Monday at an Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons conference. The Hague-based group is working to dismantle Syria's declared chemical arsenal.

British representative to the OPCW Geoffrey Adams noted there have been nearly 100 allegations of chlorine gas attacks since Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons last year. He said it is "not credible" that all the reported attacks were the work of militants.

In late October, doctors near the northern Syrian town of Kobani, besieged by IS forces, reported treating victims of chlorine gas. Also that month, Iraqi officials accused IS militants of chlorine attacks against Iraqi security forces near Baghdad.

But Adams said witnesses to reported attacks in three northern Syrian villages linked the use of poisonous chemicals to the presence of helicopters, aircraft that only the Syrian government has in the conflict.

The British envoy raised further questions about Syrian transparency on the subject of chemical weapons, noting Damascus had previously flatly denied having any such arsenal.