U.S. official: Almost no doubt Assad regime used chemical weapons

Story highlights

U.N. inspectors will be allowed to visit scene of reported chemical attack, Syria says

Syria's government denies using chemical weapons

U.S. official: "Only the Assad regime is responsible for chemical weapons use"

Russia says U.S. allegations remind it of Iraq war

Damascus, Syria CNN  — 

U.N. inspectors prepared to examine the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria on Monday, a strike a U.S. official said was all but certain was carried out by the embattled Syrian government.

Rebel forces and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government have been blaming each other for Wednesday’s reported attack in a suburb of Damascus, which opposition members say killed hundreds. Gruesome video of the aftermath showed numerous bodies, including women and children.

The U.S. official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said the evidence pointing to government forces goes beyond images and open-source reporting from doctors and others.

“There is nothing credible to indicate that the rebels, either the Syrian National Council or even al-Nusra Front, have used chemical weapons,” the official said. “Only the Assad regime is responsible for chemical weapons use.”

The Syrian government has steadfastly denied its forces used chemical weapons outside Damascus or elsewhere and repeated the denial Sunday. But a second U.S. official said Sunday that tissue samples were collected from the scene in the hours and days after the August 21 attack.

The official says the evidence was “collected by multiple international sources” and was being analyzed in secure locations. The official would not say how the samples were collected or specify where the analysis was taking place.

But with the United States and its allies warning of military action, Syria’s leading ally invoked the history of Western claims about Iraq urged Washington to avoid “a reckless enterprise.”

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said unilateral force that bypassed the United Nations would “undermine international efforts to find a political and diplomatic solution to the Syrian conflict, lead to its further escalation and have an extremely destructive effect on what already is an explosive situation in the Middle East.”