UPDATED: Assad says chemical weapons claims are an 'insult to common sense'

MOSCOW (AFP) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Western claims his regime used chemical weapons were an "insult to common sense" and warned the United States it faced failure if it attacked, in an interview with a Russian newspaper published Monday.

Mr Assad told pro-Kremlin daily Izvestia in an extensive interview that Syria would never be a "puppet" of the West and said Washington had never succeeded in reaching its political aims through war.

"The comments (accusing the regime of using chemical weapons) made by politicians in the West and other countries are an insult to common sense... It is nonsense," he said.

He accused the United States of first making the accusations that his regime used chemical weapons in an attack outside Damascus that activists say killed hundreds, and only later starting to look for proof.

He said the frontline in the area where the incident took place was not clear and the Syrian regime would have risked killing its own army forces if it used chemical weapons.

"This contradicts elementary logic," he said.

"Such accusations are completely political and the reason for them is a number of victories by the government forces against the terrorists."

He said it is "not us but our enemies who are using chemical weapons."

With calls mounting for military action against Syria, Mr Assad warned Western states to stop interfering in the affairs of other countries and instead "listen to the opinion of the people". "If someone is dreaming of making Syria a puppet of the West, then this will not happen.

"We are an independent state, we will fight against terrorism and we will build relations with whom we want for the good of the Syrian people."

He warned the United States against attacking Syria and argued Washington's previous military campaigns in recent years had always fallen short of their aims. "The United States faces failure just like in all the previous wars they waged, starting with Vietnam and up to our days," he said.

"America has taken part in many wars but could not once achieve its political goals for which the wars were started. Yes, it is true, the great powers can wage wars but can they win them?" he asked.

Russia is seen as Mr Assad's last remaining major ally and has also backed his position on the claimed chemical attack, implying it was staged by the rebels with the aim of discrediting the regime.

Mr Assad said he is in touch with Russian President Vladimir Putin "from time to time", not by telephone, but by intermediaries visiting respective capitals. Asked about Russia's hugely controversial contract to deliver Damascus with S-300 missile systems, Mr Assad said that "all contracts agreed with Russia are being fulfilled."

"Russia is supplying Syria with what is needed to protect Syria and its people," he said.

His comments came as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned US Secretary of State John Kerry over the "extremely dangerous consequences" of launching military action against the Syrian regime.

However, Mr Assad also launched a rambling diatribe against Muslim states who are strongly supportive of the rebels. He said Qatar was a "sponsor of terrorists" while Turkey "trains and provides corridors for them".

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, was a country "which only has money and someone who has just money cannot create a civilised society," Mr Assad said.

Asked about the chances of organising the so-called Geneva-2 peace conference backed by Russia and the United States, Assad replied: "We cannot start a political dialogue until the support from abroad for terrorism is halted."

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