DAMASCUS, Syria (CBS News) — One of the targets of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in Syria was still smoldering late Saturday afternoon, reports CBS News’ Seth Doane, the only American network correspondent inside Syria.
The U.S. military says the Barzeh complex in Damascus was a “center for the research, development, production and testing of chemical and biological weapons.”
Scientist Sayed said his office was there.
“Yes, where you see the smoke,” he said. He’s been here for 38 years and said he cried when he saw this place Saturday — his life’s work destroyed.
He said it’s “totally incorrect” that chemical weapons were being developed there. “The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) visited here and didn’t report anything wrong with this place.”
Syrians are adamant that this was not a place to develop chemical weapons but rather a place of learning – a research institution where they developed things like pharmaceuticals. What’s clear now is that it’s gone.
Syria’s President Bashar Assad says the Western airstrikes against his country were accompanied by a campaign of “lies” and misinformation in the U.N. Security Council.
Assad spoke Sunday to a group of visiting Russian politicians. His comments were carried by state media.
Before Syria could calculate the losses – which they claimed were limited – the government was portraying itself as confident, releasing video, first thing this morning, of Assad appearing calm and unfazed.
A package on the side of the road is anti-venom, which Sayed says is what they were producing. Sayed told us this airstrikes took his livelihood.
It’s a big institution, but Sayed said it isn’t possible that things were going on that he didn’t know about.
CBS News looked into the OPCW report from Barzeh and it noted the Syrians had delayed the visit for security concerns, but didn’t find any red flags. The Pentagon says destroying the facility sets the Syrian chemical weapons program back several years.
Assad and Russia deny using chemical weapons, the trigger for the strikes early Saturday. An alleged gas attack last weekend in the town of Douma killed more than 40 people, according to opposition activists and rescuers.
Assad told his visitors that the U.S., Britain and France, which carried out the strikes, had waged a campaign of “lies and misinformation” against Russia and Syria.
The U.N. Security Council has been paralyzed in dealing with the seven-year Syrian conflict and the use of chemical weapons. Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member, is a close ally of Assad.
The U.S., Britain and France said they launched airstrikes against Syrian chemical sites after obtaining “proof” that poisonous gas was used last weekend in Douma. Russia and Syria have called the claims fabricated.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley warned the U.S. is locked and loaded if there’s another chemical attack.
“We acted to deter the future use of chemical weapons by holding the Syrian regime responsible for its atrocities against humanity,” she said.
France’s U.N. Ambassador Francois Delattre said the result of the vote sends “a clear message” that Security Council members recognized the need for the airstrikes, and “their proportional and targeted nature.”
“And what’s most important is no one contests that the use of chemical weapons cannot be tolerated and must be deterred,” he said. “That is essential.”
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)