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Syrian foreign minister at U.N. General Assembly: 'There is no civil war'

By Holly Yan. Nick Paton Walsh and Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 11:34 AM EDT, Mon September 30, 2013
In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war: In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war:
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Syria's foreign minister says conflict "is a war against terror"
  • The Security Council agreed that Syria must give up its chemical weapons
  • A group of U.N. inspectors is leaving Syria on Monday
  • A team from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons arrives Monday

(CNN) -- Under a global microscope for chemical warfare in its country, the Syrian regime took the world stage at the U.N. General Assembly on Monday.

"There is no civil war in Syria, but it is a war against terror that recognizes no values, nor justice, nor equality, and disregards any rights or laws," Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said.

Moallem did not discuss last week's resolution by the U.N. Security Council requiring Syria to eliminate its cache of chemical weapons. But he pledged that Syria would keep its word and fulfill the implementation of the chemical weapons convention.

"Syria, by acceding to the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, proves its commitment against the use of such weapons, while at the same time calls on the international community to shoulder its responsibility against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East," he said. "Syria is known for fulfilling its obligations and commitments; therefore, I assure you the Syria's commitment to the full implementation of the provisions of the convention."

But there's an unknown factor, he said: "Whether those who are supplying terrorists with these types of weapon will abide by their legal commitments."

He repeated his government's longstanding claim that rebels are using chemical weapons.

"Terrorists who used poisonous gases in my country have received chemical agents from regional and Western countries that are well known to all of us," he said. "They are the ones using poisonous gases on our military and our civilians alike."

Moallem said his government wants to reach to a political solution to the country's crisis.

"But our commitment to a political solution does not mean allowing terrorism to hit innocent civilians; it does not mean watching our mosques and churches destroyed," he said.

CNN world affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty said the "buts" in Moallem's speech are likely to face close scrutiny from U.S. officials in the coming days as they ask a key question about Syria: "Are they actually fully committed to this agreement or not?"

The hunt for evidence

At the same time, inspectors from both the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons are on the move.

Bashar al-Assad: Syria will comply

The U.N. team left Damascus on Monday after investigating a half-dozen claims of chemical weapons use -- some allegedly by the government, others allegedly by rebels.

The team has confirmed the August use of chemical warfare in a rural Damascus suburb, an attack that killed at least 1,400 people, according to U.S. estimates.

The investigators will file a report on their findings. But once again, the U.N. inspectors aren't tasked with figuring out who might be responsible for unleashing chemical weapons in Syria, just whether the weapons were used.

The hunt for more chemical weapons

As the U.N. inspectors leave, 20 investigators from the chemical weapons group will head from the Netherlands to Syria. Their job is to identify any gaps in Syria's initial list of the chemical weapons it has.

It's all part of a plan laid out by the United States and Russia to get Syria to give up its chemical weapons. Syria has agreed to the plan, but it's difficult to know whether the regime is being completely up-front with where its stockpiles are located.

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