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France: Assad Launched 14 Chemical Strikes Since October

A bicyclist passes a burning building in the Syrian city of Homs on Monday. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Tuesday accused the government in Damascus of carrying out 14 or more chemical strikes since October 2013. A bicyclist passes a burning building in the Syrian city of Homs on Monday. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Tuesday accused the government in Damascus of carrying out 14 or more chemical strikes since October 2013. (Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)

France charged Syria's regime with carrying out 14 or more chemical strikes since October, including a number in recent weeks, the Associated Press reports.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Tuesday said "credible witnesses" formed the basis for suspicions about the possible Syrian strikes, which reportedly took place since Oct. 25 and in some cases involved the use of toxic chlorine gas.

"Right now, we are examining samples that were taken," the New York Times quoted Fabius as saying to journalists. He added that chlorine's fast evaporation rate has made its use hard to physically verify, according to AP.

In a CNN interview published on Wednesday, Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad denied any use of chlorine in attacks by the government.

Damascus has blamed opposition forces for any use of chemical arms in Syria's 3-year-old civil war. Still, the regime agreed to relinquish it's own arsenal of lethal warfare substances after an August sarin attack killed hundreds of people in rebel territory, prompting international threats of military intervention.

Fabius said the recent alleged strikes indicate that Assad's government "is still capable of producing chemical weapons, and determined to use them," AP reported.

The top French diplomat added, though, that the 14 recent "small-scale" attacks had little chance of prompting an armed response from abroad.

Fabius said a lone French military response to the Aug. 21 sarin gas attack "was out of the question."

"We regret that, because we believe it would have changed many things, in many respects," he said.

The regime so far has placed roughly 92 percent of its declared chemical-arms inventory in international custody. It is not required to surrender any stocks of chlorine, a common industrial chemical.

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