Syrian govt claims rebels used chemical weapons in Damascus

DAMASCUS (AFP) - Syria's government said on Saturday that rebel fighters used chemical weapons in a north-eastern district of the capital, countering the insurgents' claims that the regime was behind the alleged attacks.

"An army unit is surrounding a sector of Jobar where terrorists used chemical weapons," said the state broadcaster, adding that soldiers who tried to enter the neighbourhood had "suffocated".

However, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Saturday that all indications show that Syria was behind a "chemical massacre" near Damascus that the opposition claims killed hundreds.

"All the information at our disposal converge to indicate that there was a chemical massacre near Damascus and that the Bashar regime is responsible," Mr Fabius said on a visit to Ramallah in the West Bank.

The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has denied it unleashed chemical weapons on Wednesday near Damascus, despite claims by the opposition, which says 1,300 people were killed in the alleged attacks.