(Recasts with news agency replacing original story)
DUBAI, Sept 1 An Iranian news agency quoted
former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as saying Syria's
government had attacked its own people with chemical weapons,
but later replaced the report with a different version that did
not attribute blame for the raid.
The second version by the semi-official Iranian Labour News
Agency reported him as saying on Sunday: "On the one hand the
people of Syria are the target of a chemical attack, and now
they must wait for an attack by foreigners."
In the earlier version, the quote was: "The people have been
the target of a chemical attack by their own government and now
they must also wait for an attack by foreigners."
The earlier version of his remarks differed sharply from
comments by other Iranian officials, who have said rebels trying
to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were responsible for a
poison gas attack on the outskirts of Damascus on Aug. 21.
The attack has drawn Western threats of military reprisals
against the Syrian government, an ally of Iran.
In other remarks which were unchanged, Rafsanjani went on:
"Right now America, the Western world along with some of the
Arab countries are nearly issuing a clarion call for war in
Syria - may God have mercy on the people of Syria," he said.
"The people of Syria have seen much damage in these two
years, the prisons are overflowing and they've converted
stadiums into prisons, more than 100,000 people killed and
millions displaced," he added.
Rafsanjani is a close ally of Iranian President Hassan
Rouhani and chairs Iran's Expediency Council, which advises
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Iranian soldiers suffered chemical weapons attacks during
the country's 1980-1988 war with Iraq, and Iran has repeatedly
condemned their use.
(Reporting By Yeganeh Torbati, Editing by William Maclean and