(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- A top Syrian official claims that terrorists will benefit if the U.S. moves ahead with a military strike against his country for allegedly launching a deadly chemical weapons attack on civilians last month. With a decision on whether to take military action put off temporarily, Syria's official al-Thawra newspaper said in a front-page editorial that President Obama's decision to seek congressional approval first is "the beginning of the historic American retreat."
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad has charged that if the U.S. punishes Syria with a missile attack, it will turn into "support for al-Qaeda and its affiliates."
Mekdad asserted that rebel forces were solely responsible for using chemical weapons, not the Syrian government.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad also told Syrian French newspaper Le Figaro that Obama cannot prove his charges that the Syrian regime gassed its own people.
Even more ominously, Assad remarked, “The Middle East is a powder keg and the fire is getting closer. No one knows what will happen and everyone will lose control once the keg blows up; chaos and extremism will spread, the risk of a regional war exists.”
Meanwhile, in a much needed boost for the Obama administration, the French government turned over evidence to its lawmakers that points to Assad's regime using sarin gas in a Damascus suburb on Aug. 21 that the U.S. says left 1,400 people dead, including more than 425 children.
On Wednesday, the French parliament is scheduled to debate what kind of response is warranted.
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