Syrian official Saeed Saeed, head of the “Institution for the Development of Pharmaceutical and Chemical Industries,” told reporters on Saturday that one of the targets destroyed in the US-led coalition air strike was a pharmaceutical research institute working on drugs to fight cancer.
Saeed said he could not have spoken from the site of the attack the next day if it was housing chemical weapons.
“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,” Saeed said.
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 center 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 neighborhood northeast of Damascus.
Syrian state media said the facility “works on preparing the chemical compositions for cancer drugs, and conducts chemical analyses of the materials entering Syria which are used in pharmaceutical and food industries.”
The State Department defended the strike on Sunday saying the US hit three sites “we know were housing and testing chemical weapons.”
The US-led strike hit one day before the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ investigators landed in Syria with the goal of determining whether or not chemical weapons were used in Douma on April 7.
Asked what evidence the US has chemical weapons were used, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said Saturday: “We are still assessing, but as the secretary said last night, he is confident of the evidence that we already had, and which is why he recommended this — the strikes last night. But we are still assessing and getting details, and we’ll — we can provide more details once we have them.”
“Can you give us a sense of what evidence you do have?” a reporter asked.
“Various — there’s various intel, and I won’t speak to that,” White said. “But when we have more evidence and details, I will — I will come back to you.”