An official of a Syrian scientific research institution that was hit by a US-led missile attack on Saturday denied its possession of chemical weapons.
Speaking to reporters after the strike that destroyed the facility, Saeed Saeed, head of the Institution for the Development of Pharmaceutical and Chemical Industries, said the research center was used by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in 2013, but it is now a research center for pharmaceutical products since the country has been in shortage of necessary medicines due to sanctions from the West.
"Since the Syria crisis broke out, the country has been short of all kinds of medicines due to the sanctions from western countries. Foreign companies stopped exporting high-quality medicines to Syria, especially anti-cancer medicines. So we have been conducting researches on anti-cancer medicines here, and three anti-cancer drugs have been developed," Saeed told reporters at the scene.
He stressed that if the building contained chemical weapons, as claimed by the United States, he and other colleagues could not be staying there after the strike without wearing masks.
"If there were chemical weapons in the building, we would not be here. My colleagues and I came here at 05:00 this morning. If there were chemical weapons, we would need to wear masks and take other protective measures to be staying here," said Saeed.
He added that the research centre was used as an OPCW working base in 2013, where the mission of the OPCW experts in Syria was carried out.
The experts would bring all suspected samples from different sites to the building and they have issued two reports stating that this building was empty of any chemical materials for warfare, according to Saeed.
The OPCW had carried out its work in late 2013 when the Syrian army agreed to hand over its chemical arsenal.
By June 2014, the entire chemical arsenal of the Syrian army was handed over to the OPCW.
But after the Syrian army surrendered its chemical arsenal, the Western countries kept accusing the government forces of using chemical weapons, despite the Syrian government's repeated denials that it ever used such weapons.
On April 7, the rebels in Douma district of Eastern Ghouta countryside of Damascus accused the Syrian government forces of using chlorine gas in an attack in that area, an allegation the army and the Syrian government never admitted.
Earlier on Saturday, the United States, Britain and France launched a missile strike on Syrian military positions, including the scientific research center in the Barzeh neighbourhood northeast of Damascus.