Assad in Interview Said to Deny Role in Chemical Weapons Strike

Photographer: Mohammad al-Hussein/AFP via Getty Images

A damaged picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hangs in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa. Close

A damaged picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hangs in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa.

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Photographer: Mohammad al-Hussein/AFP via Getty Images

A damaged picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad hangs in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is disputing U.S. allegations that he used chemical weapons against civilians, and said the Obama administration hasn’t proved he did, according to CBS News correspondent Charlie Rose.

“He denied that he had anything to do with the attack, he denied that he knew, in fact, that there was a chemical attack,” Rose said, describing on CBS’s “Face the Nation” his interview with Assad today in Damascus. “He said there’s not evidence yet to make a conclusive judgment.”

Rose interviewed Assad as the U.S. weighs a military strike against Syria as punishment for what the U.S says was an Assad-ordered Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack that killed more than 1,400 people. CBS said in a statement that excerpts from the interview will be broadcast tomorrow on its morning and evening news programs. The full interview will air on Rose’s Public Broadcasting System broadcast tomorrow night.

“He was calm,” Rose, whose PBS program is rebroadcast by Bloomberg Television, said of Assad. “He knew the situation he was in.”

Rose said he asked Assad whether he thought there would be an attack and Assad told him “I don’t know” and that Assad said there was no evidence that Syria had chemical weapons or that he had used them against his own people.

Rebels Cited

Rose said Assad told him that if Syria was in possession of chemical weapons, “they are in centralized control and no one else has access to them” and “suggested -- as he has before -- that perhaps the rebels had something to do with it.” Assad didn’t confirm or deny that Syria had such weapons, according to Rose’s account of the interview.

Assad -- and people in Damascus in general -- are closely watching developments in Washington, where Congress returns this week to consider proposals authorizing military action in Syria, Rose said.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, also on “Face the Nation” said the “most important” insight in Rose’s account of the interview was that “Assad is clearly watching -- closely watching -- what is happening in Washington.”

The White House effort to sell the public and Congress on its Syria plan included appearances by McDonough on all five of the U.S. Sunday network talk shows. Obama will follow up with six television network interviews tomorrow before giving a prime-time televised address to the nation on Sept. 10, the eve of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington and the attack last year on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kathleen Hunter in Washington at khunter9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jodi Schneider at jschneider50@bloomberg.net

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