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Iranian leader acknowledges deaths from chemical attacks

| Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, 8:45 p.m.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday for the first time that chemical weapons killed people in ally Syria and he called for the international community to prevent their use.

Rouhani stopped short of saying who he thought had used the arms, but Iran's Foreign Ministry said evidence pointed to the rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Tehran has accused Syrian rebels of being behind what it called suspected chemical attacks.

Rouhani did not mention the international furor around Syrian opposition reports that government forces killed as many as 1,000 civilians with gas in Damascus on Wednesday.

“Many of the innocent people of Syria have been injured and martyred by chemical agents, and this is unfortunate,” the recently elected Rouhani was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.

“We completely and strongly condemn the use of chemical weapons, because the Islamic Republic of Iran is itself a victim of chemical weapons,” he said, according to the agency.

Iranians were subjected to chemical weapons attacks by Iraqi forces during the Iran-Iraq war from 1980 to 1988.

“The Islamic Republic gives notice to the international community to use all its might to prevent the use of these weapons anywhere in the world, especially in Syria,” Mehr news agency quoted Rouhani as saying.

Abbas Araqchi, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, said Iran believes rebels were behind the attack. Tehran officials have been in touch with authorities from Syria and other countries to find out what happened.

“There is evidence that this action was carried out by terrorist groups,” ISNA quoted Araqchi as saying. “The concurrence of the use of these weapons with the presence of United Nations inspectors is itself an indication that there are hands at work to accuse the Syrian government of using these weapons and help the conflict and crisis to continue.”

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