Syrian dictator appears to find loophole in weapons ban

One of the reasons Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has survived this long is because he staved off U.S.-led strikes last summer by agreeing to hand over all of his banned chemical weapons materials, but recently, he appears to have found a loophole - attacking his own people with chlorine gas.

In some parts of Syria, Tuesday's election that won Assad a new seven-year term began with barrel bombs, not ballot boxes, CBS News' Clarissa Ward reports. In regime-held areas it was a dramatically different picture.

"I voted with my blood because I love our president and our country," voter Nahed Homsi said.

Assad is the clear winner in an election the U.S. State Department labels a "disgrace."

For Assad, this election was not so much a show of democracy as it was a declaration of victory. Over the past few months the regime has continued its relentless bombardment of rebel-held areas.

It appears the regime has found an alternative to banned chemical weapons materials. Chlorine gas, which can be used legitimately in water treatment, has also allegedly been used in recent government bombing attacks. The poison gas burns the lungs and can be deadly.

Dr. Hassan al-Arraj, a cardiologist from the Syrian town of Kfar Zeita, said that he has smelled the chlorine himself.

"The patients were choking and coughing up blood," Arraj said. "They were blue and trembling."

The most recent attack was just days ahead of Tuesday's vote.

A team of international chemical weapons inspectors tried to visit Kfar Zeita last week, but their convoy was attacked on the road, and they had to turn back.

Comments

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Watch Now

The Newsroom

The all new
CBS News App for Android® for iPad® for iPhone®
Fully redesigned. Featuring CBSN, 24/7 live news. Get the App