'Shameful': Syria accuses US of lying over chemical weapons to justify joining war

After publicly declaring Syrian president Bashar al Assad has used chemical weapons against his own people, senior officials say the U.S. will now provide direct lethal aid to opposition forces. NBC's Chuck Todd reports.

By Marian Smith, Staff Writer, NBC News

LONDON -- Syria claimed Friday that the United States was lying about the regime's use of chemical weapons against opposition fighters in the country's civil war just so that it could intervene in the conflict.

"The United States, in resorting to a shameful use of pretexts in order to allow President Obama's decision to arm the Syrian opposition, shows that it has flagrant double standards in the way it deals with terrorism," Syria's foreign ministry said.

The White House announced on Thursday that it believed President Bashar Assad's government used chemical weapons -- including the nerve agent sarin -- multiple times over the past year.

As a result, President Barack Obama will provide "military support" to a major opposition group in Syria, deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said.

Syria has maintained that "terrorists" are using the chemical weapons.

According to the United Nations' human rights office, the two-year-old war in Syria has killed almost 93,000 people, although it says the real number is likely to be much higher.

The United Kingdom, which says it provided evidence of chemical weapons use in Syria to a United Nations investigation, had not decided whether to arm the rebels, a government spokesman said Friday.

"Nothing is off the table," the spokesman said, adding that the U.K. was "in urgent discussions with [its] international partners."

On Wednesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was eager to host the G8 summit next week in Northern Ireland. "We should use the G8 to try and bring pressure on all sides to bring about ... a peace conference, a peace process, and a move towards a transitional government in Syria," he said.

In an interview with the BBC on Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the UN Security Council to "achieve a united approach."

But France raised the concern that a Security Council resolution, such as the establishment of a no-fly zone over Syria, would face opposition from some members.

A look back at the conflict that has overtaken the country.

"The problem with this type of measure is that it can only be put in place with approval from the international community," French Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said Friday.

Russia, which has opposed sanctions and vetoed UN Security Council resolutions to put pressure on Assad, reacted with skepticism to the White House's announcement.

Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said the information was inconclusive and "could not cause serious concern," according to the official statement on the ministry's website.

Lukashevich added that the only way to resolve the Syrian crisis was through talks, and called for an international conference to address the issue. His statement followed Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's call earlier this week for an independent investigation into the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

NBC's Albina Kovalyova and Reuters contributed to this report.

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