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Russia Assails Credibility of West's Syrian Chemical Strike Data

Russia's chief delegate to the United Nations on Thursday said that Western powers have loaded down international investigators with poorly substantiated claims of Syrian chemical weapons use to shift attention away from "credible" allegations.

Moscow on Wednesday sent the United Nations a forensic assessment that Syrian opposition forces had released sarin nerve agent in a March strike responsible for 26 deaths in the country's civil war. Syria's Russian-backed government in past months has invited U.N. inspectors into the country to examine only that incident, not other possible strikes that include some allegedly conducted by its own forces.

"We need to be looking to credible allegations," Churkin said in comments reported by Reuters. Seeking probes of chemical use allegations beyond the March 19 incident at Khan al-Assal, he said, was creating a "small propaganda storm in a glass of water."

Syria's main Western-supported rebel group on Wednesday rejected Russia's finding that opposition forces were behind the alleged March strike, Reuters reported separately.

The United States and its allies appear to be "trying to produce the maximum number of allegations with the minimum of credibility in an effort ... to create maximum problems for arranging such an investigation," Churkin said. France, the United Kingdom and the United States have sent details from nine or more chemical strike claims to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

The Russian diplomat rejected a U.S. assertion that Moscow was blocking U.N. Security Council action "to allow U.N. access into Syria to investigate any [and] all credible allegations," the Xinhua News Agency reported on Friday.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki's Wednesday accusation about Russian diplomatic actions was "completely misleading," Churkin said. "From the outset (when) the Syrian government invited the United Nations to investigate the use of chemical weapons on March 19, we have been doing everything we could for that investigation to happen."

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he would respect a nonbinding call by lawmakers to seek their go-ahead on any plans to arm rebels in Syria, Reuters reported on Thursday.

The opposition Syrian National Coalition on Thursday aired worries that U.S. weapon deliveries were being held up by congressional gridlock, the Associated Press reported.

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