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Syrian Regime Accuses Rebels of Plotting Chemical Strike

Syrian opposition fighters walk along a trench in the city of Deir Ezzor last week. Damascus on Tuesday asserted that rebels were plotting to conduct a chemical attack they would later blame on government forces. Syrian opposition fighters walk along a trench in the city of Deir Ezzor last week. Damascus on Tuesday asserted that rebels were plotting to conduct a chemical attack they would later blame on government forces. (Ahmad Aboud/AFP/Getty Images)

Syria's regime accused its civil-war opponents of plotting to conduct a chemical strike they would later tie to the government, Russia Today reports.

The U.N. Security Council is considering the regime's assertion that the Islamist rebel group Ahrar al-Sham is planning to conduct an attack on the outskirts of Damascus using warfare substances transferred from Turkey, the Russian state-run news agency said in a Tuesday report. Moscow is an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad's government, which pledged last year to surrender its chemical arsenal following a large-scale sarin gas strike on an opposition-held suburb of the nation's capital.

Assad's government last week told Security Council nations it had eavesdropped on two rebel discussions concerning gas-mask distribution.

According to Assad's envoy to the United Nations, a participant in one of the exchanges allegedly referred directly to a planned assault involving "toxic gas." Both communications took place in the Damascus neighborhood of Jobar, Ambassador Bashar Jaafari said in a March 27 statement.

In a letter sent the prior week, Jaafari said his government identified a smuggler who had transferred white phosphorus and other substances into Syria.

Jaafari said the rebels purportedly intended "to produce white smoke in certain areas and then claim that Syrian planes had bombarded them."

"However, the primary reason for requesting those substances was to use them as chemical weapons," the diplomat asserted.

Assad's regime has faced separate accusations of employing white phosphorus, an incendiary substance not scheduled under an international treaty banning chemical arms.

U.N. investigators last year reported signs of a possible Aug. 24 sarin nerve agent strike in the Jobar neighborhood of Damascus. They did not assign blame for the attack, which would have come three days after a strike alleged to have killed more than 1,400 people in the Syrian capital's Ghouta suburb.

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