France’s Ayrault says Assad’s comments on Syria chemical attack are “lies“

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault moves his hand across his face during a joint press conference with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing(AP Photo)
Updated 14 April 2017

France’s Ayrault says Assad’s comments on Syria chemical attack are “lies“

BEIJIN: French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on Friday dismissed as “lies and propaganda” comments by Syrian President Bashar Assad that a poison gas attack blamed on his government last week in Idlib province was “100 percent fabrication.”
Syria has already denied the attack and Assad had said the allegations against the Syrian military by the United States and its allies were used to justify a US air strike.
Syria’s military had given up all its chemical weapons in 2013 after an agreement made at the time, and would not have used them anyway, AFP quoted Assad as saying in an interview published on Thursday.
Ayrault, speaking at a joint press briefing in Beijing with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi, said he had learned of Assad’s remarks with “deep sadness.”
“What I heard is 100 percent lies and propaganda. It’s 100 percent cruelty and cynicism. And so we have to end it. We need a real cease-fire,” Ayrault said.
Ayrault added that widespread destruction in the country during its six-year-long civil war was “not a fantasy,” and thanked China — like France, a permanent member of the UN security council — for its “independent and wise position.”
China has repeatedly urged that a political resolution be found in Syria.
It has also sided numerous times with Russia, Assad’s top international backer since 2015, in blocking action by the Security Council on Syria. Beijing’s special envoy for the Syrian crisis has also praised Russia’s military role there as effective in combating international terrorism.
Earlier this week, Ayrault criticized Russia for its “hypocrisy” in Syria.
The April 4 attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun killed scores of people and prompted the United States to launch a cruise missile strike on a Syrian air base in response, its first direct assault on the Assad government in the conflict.
Assad said Syria would only allow an “impartial” investigation into the poison gas incident.
Russia has said the gas was part of rebel stockpiles, which the rebels have denied.
Samples taken from Khan Sheikhoun last week tested positive for the nerve agent sarin, the British delegation at the global chemical weapons watchdog OPCW said on Thursday.


China bans wild animal trade until viral outbreak eases

Updated 39 min ago

China bans wild animal trade until viral outbreak eases

  • Raising transporting or selling all wild animal species is forbidden until the epidemic is over
  • The virus has caused 56 confirmed deaths and nearly 2,000 total infections

BEIJING: China on Sunday ordered a temporary ban on the trade in wild animals as the country struggles to contain a deadly virus believed to have been spawned in a market that sold wild animals as food.
Raising, transporting or selling all wild animal species is forbidden “from the date of the announcement until the national epidemic situation is over,” said a government directive.
The ban was issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, the State Administration for Market Regulation, and the National Forestry and Grassland Administration.
The lethal virus, which has caused 56 confirmed deaths and nearly 2,000 total infections in China, and spread to about a dozen countries, is believed to have originated in a market in the central city of Wuhan, where a range of wildlife was reportedly sold.
Conservationists have long accused China of tolerating a shadowy trade in exotic animals for food or as ingredients in traditional medicines, including highly endangered species such as the pangolin or tiger.
Health experts say the trade poses a significant and growing public health risk as potentially dangerous animal-borne pathogens that people would normal not be exposed to make the jump to humans.
The SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus that killed hundreds of people in China and Hong Kong in 2002-03 also has been traced to wild animals, with scientists saying it likely originated in bats, later reaching humans via civets.
Civets, a cat-like creature, were among dozens of species listed on an exhaustive price list for one of the animal-trading businesses at the Wuhan market that emerged online last week.
Other items included various rats, snakes, giant salamanders and even live wolf pups.
Sunday’s announcement said all businesses, markets, food and beverage outlets and e-commerce platforms are “strictly prohibited from trading in wild animals in any form.”
It added that “consumers must fully understand the health risks of eating wild animals, avoid wild game, and eat healthy.”
The so-called bushmeat trade, along with broader human encroachment on wild habitats, is bringing humans into ever-closer contact with animal viruses that can spread rapidly in today’s connected world, scientists say.
A study by the Global Virome Project, a worldwide effort to increase preparedness for pandemics, estimated that there are nearly 1.7 million undiscovered viruses in the animal kingdom, nearly half of which could be harmful to humans.
Peter Daszak, a virology expert with the project, told AFP its research also indicated that we can expect around five new animal-borne pathogens to infect humanity each year.
China has launched previous crackdowns on the wildlife trade, including after SARS, but conservationists say the trade typically resumes over time.