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Syrian Parliamentarian Denies Using Chemical Weapons


We'll turn now to Syria and how Syrians feel about this weekend's bombing raid by the U.S., U.K. and France. Fares Shehabi is a member of the Syrian parliament. We reached him in Aleppo. His reaction - he feels sick that coalition nations have once against fallen for what he calls a hoax.

FARES SHEHABI: We've seen this in Iraq with the WMDs. We've seen it in Libya. And now we are seeing this in Syria. And they hit a facility that they claim to be producing chemical weapons, but no contamination ever took place. And we feel also victorious because this strike was useless. We shut down 70 percent of the missiles. And everybody here - I mean, you should see the people here around me. You should see the people in the capital. Everybody's dancing on the streets.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So you deny that your government used chemical weapons against the people of Douma...

SHEHABI: Absolutely.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Even though there have been people on the ground who have spoken of being gassed, even though we saw pictures, even though...

SHEHABI: We don't care about this. These are fabrications. Look. Yes. We have also testimonials against this. Bear in mind, the terrorists in Douma - they declared surrender. And after they started leaving Douma after our army was deployed inside Douma, how could we use chemical weapons in an area surrounded by our troops and brought in close proximity to our troops - could we really control the wind factor here from all sides? And why would we do that if we are winning?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Sir, there have been many documented instances of the Syrian government using chemical weapons against its own citizens. You may dispute this instance. But there have been many, many others.

SHEHABI: These are all fabrications. We don't have chemical weapons.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're saying that your country has no chemical weapons, and they've never used chemical weapons?

SHEHABI: It was all dismantled. We don't need chemical weapons. We (unintelligible) use chemical weapons. And surely, when we are winning and our troops are on the ground, no stupid idiot use chemical weapons to hurt his own troops.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Leaving aside the issue of chemical weapons, this conflict has devastated your country. It sent millions of your citizens to neighboring countries as refugees.

SHEHABI: Yes. Yes.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You have starved people. You have tortured people. You have killed journalists. You have sent barrel bombs.

SHEHABI: No. We have - we were starved. We were tortured.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What legitimacy does the government of Bashar al-Assad have left, do you think?

SHEHABI: Look. Look. Look. Look. It is not the government of Bashar al-Assad. And we are not defending Bashar al-Assad. Bashar al-Assad is just a person who happens to be the president. We are defending a country that is based on secularism, that is based on an historical culture and identity. We don't defend people. We don't defend (unintelligible) or regimes. I don't care what your media is saying or what your hypocrite politicians are saying to you to fool you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's not what the media's saying. It's what the refugees that have to leave your country are saying about the conflict, sir.

SHEHABI: If you just rewind a bit to 2016, you'd see the lies, the same lies, the (unintelligible) lies and all of these lies about (unintelligible). Now more than a million people return to eastern Aleppo. And no one - not a single civilian told us that the Syrian army targeted them or they were abused by the government or by us.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Fares Shehabi is a member of the Syrian parliament. And he joined us from Aleppo. Thank you very much.

SHEHABI: You're welcome, Lulu. You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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