(Adds Foreign Ministry spokesman comments)
DUBAI Aug 24 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
said on Saturday for the first time that chemical weapons had
killed people in ally Syria and called for the international
community to prevent their use.
Rouhani stopped short of saying who he thought had used the
arms, but Iran's Foreign Ministry on Saturday said evidence
pointed to rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Tehran has previously accused Syrian rebels of being behind
what it called suspected chemical attacks.
Rouhani did not mention the international furore around
Syrian opposition reports that government forces had killed as
many as 1,000 civilians with gas in Damascus on Wednesday.
"Many of the innocent people of Syria have been injured and
martyred by chemical agents and this is unfortunate," recently
elected Rouhani was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.
"We completely and strongly condemn the use of chemical
weapons, because the Islamic Republic of Iran is itself a victim
of chemical weapons," he said, according to the agency.
Iran suffered chemical weapons attacks by Iraqi forces
during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war.
"The Islamic Republic gives notice to the international
community to use all its might to prevent the use of these
weapons anywhere in the world, especially in Syria," Mehr news
agency quoted Rouhani as saying.
Syria's government denies using such weapons and Iran's
foreign minister said on Thursday that groups fighting Assad's
forces in a two-year-old rebellion must have been behind what he
then said was just a suspected gas attack.
Russia, another major ally of the Syrian government, has
suggested rebels could be behind the attack.
Abbas Araqchi, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, said Iran
believed the rebels were behind the attack, and that Iran was in
touch with Syria and other countries to find out what happened.
"There is evidence that this action was carried out by
terrorist groups," ISNA quoted Araqchi as saying. "The
concurrence of the use of these weapons with the presence of
United Nations inspectors is itself an indication that there are
hands at work to accuse the Syrian government of using these
weapons and help the conflict and crisis to continue."
The uprising against four decades of Assad family rule has
turned into a civil war that has killed more than 100,000.
Foreign powers have said chemical weapons could change the
calculus in terms of intervention and are urging the Syrian
government to allow a U.N. team of experts to examine the site
of Wednesday's reported attacks.
The United States on Friday was repositioning naval forces
in the Mediterranean to give President Barack Obama the option
of an armed strike on Syria, although officials said that Obama
had made no decision on military action.
In response, Iran warned the United States on Saturday not
to get militarily involved in Syria.
"No international licence exists for military intervention
in Syria," Araqchi was quoted as saying by ISNA. "We hope that
White House officials are wise enough to not enter such a
dangerous battle. Statements of provocation by American military
officials or actions such as sending warships do not help solve
the issue and will make the region's situation more dangerous."
(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Louise Ireland)