(CBS News) Syria's President Bashar Assad denied his regime's use of chemical weapons in a wide-ranging interview with CBS News' Charlie Rose. Assad issued a chilling warning for thein response to a potential strike on Syria and repeatedly told Rose the Obama administration lacks irrefutable evidence to back up charges of chemical weapons use.
The White House says more than 1,400 Syrian civilians were killed in a chemical weapons attack outside Damascus on August 21.
Assad said he had no knowledge of the chemical attack allegedly carried out by his own military, and took aim at Secretary of State John Kerry for making the charges without "a single shred" of evidence.
"We-- we're not in the area where... the alleged chemical attack was happened, as is alleged. We're not sure that anything happened," Assad insisted.
"Our soldiers in another area were attacked chemically, our soldiers. They went to the hospital, as casualties because of chemical weapons. But in the area where they said the government used chemical weapons, we only had video and we only have pictures and allegations. We're not there. Our forces -- our police, our institutions don't exist. How can you talk about what happened if you don't have evidences? We're not like the American administration. We're not social media administration or government. We are the government that deals with reality."
Secretary Kerry and other Obama administration officials insist they have intelligence showing it was Assad's forces who fired rockets into a region controlled by the rebels on Aug. 21. Assad emphatically denied the charge, and pointed to Russian evidence claiming the contrary. He went on to compare Kerry's claims to Colin Powell's claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
"He presented his confidence and he presented his convictions," Assad said of Kerry. "It's not about confidence, it's about evidence. The United-- sorry, the Russians have completely opposite evidence that the missiles were thrown from area where the rebels controlled. That reminds me -- about what Kerry said -- about the big lie that Colin Powell said in front of the world on satellites about the W.M.D. in Iraq before going to war when he said, 'This is our evidence.' Actually, he gave false evidence. In this case, Kerry didn't even present any evidence. He talks, 'we have evidence,' and he didn't present anything, not yet. Nothing so far... not a single shred of evidence."