Syria will surprise aggressors, Foreign Minister Muallem says

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Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem says Damascus will defend itself against any foreign military attack, adding that the country has capabilities that will surprise the aggressors. "Syria is not an easy case. We have defenses which will surprise others," Muallem said during a news conference on Tuesday in the capital Damascus. "We have two options: either to surrender, or to defend ourselves with the means at our disposal," he said. "The second choice is the best: we will defend ourselves." Muallem also stated that any military action against Syria would serve the interests of Israel and al-Qaeda-linked militants fighting against the Syrian government. "The war effort led by the United States and their allies will serve the interests of Israel and secondly al-Nusra Front," the Syrian foreign minister said. In the last few days, US officials have repeatedly referred to "surgical strikes" on Syrian military installations while discussing US military options for the Arab country. The call for military action against Syria intensified after the foreign-backed opposition forces accused the government of President Bashar al-Assad of launching a chemical attack on militant strongholds in the suburbs of Damascus last week. On Monday, US Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to set the groundwork for US military action against Syria by leveling chemical weapons accusations against the Assad government. In Tuesday's news conference, the Syrian foreign minister challenged the US and its allies to present evidence that the government had used chemical weapons. "We are hearing war drums around us. If they want to launch an attack against Syria, I think using the excuse of chemical weapons is not true at all. I challenge them to show what proof they have," Muallem said. Meanwhile, White House spokesman Jay Carney said that President Barack Obama was still undecided about launching a military strike, saying that Washington was not considering "boots on the ground" in Syria. However, France and Israel, among other opponents of the Syrian government, are pushing for a US offensive against Syria. Russia urged the West not to jump to conclusions on the chemical weapons attack, and await the findings of a UN inspection team that on Monday examined the area in Damascus suburbs, where the alleged attack reportedly killed hundreds of people. All countries should wait for the results of the probe and "show prudence and avoid tragic mistakes" by jumping to conclusions about the incident, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said on Sunday. "Our American and European partners must understand what catastrophic consequences this kind of politics would have for the region, for the Arab and Islamic world as a whole," Lukashevich said, advising the West to avoid military action against Syria.

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