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Syria censures US financial support to White Helmets

The undated photo shows a view of the building of Syria’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates in the capital Damascus. (Photo by Syria's official news agency SANA)

Syria has strongly denounced a recent decision by the administration of US President Donald Trump to resume financial support for the so-called civil defense group White Helmets, which has been blamed for staging suspected chemical attacks in the Arab country.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday that the additional financial support was a clear piece of evidence that Washington has been playing a leading role in supporting anti-Syria militants since 2011.

“The Syrian Arab Republic condemns the recent US decision to provide USD 6.6 million in financial aid to the White Helmets terrorist organization,” the Syrian Foreign Ministry statement read.

Washington's attempts to embolden the White Helmets have shamelessly exposed its relationship to the terrorist organization, the statement added.

Elsewhere in the statement, the ministry blamed the United States and its Western allies for using the organization to practice terrorism, particularly in alleged chemical attacks that were staged to tarnish the image of the Syrian government and prolong the conflict.

The White Helmets are part of the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, the statement said.

Syria and Russia have accused the volunteer group of having staged a gas attack in the town of Douma in Syria's Eastern Ghouta on April 7.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has also described the White Helmets as "a branch of al-Qaeda and al-Nusra" militant groups and a “PR stunt” by the United States, Britain and France. One week after the Douma incident, the trio launched a coordinated missile attack against sites and research facilities near Damascus and Homs with the purported goal of paralyzing the Syrian government’s capability to produce chemicals.

President Trump has authorized the release of $6.6 million in previously frozen funding for the organization. US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert recently said Washington "strongly supports" the White Helmets.

Back in March, Trump ordered the State Department to suspend $200 million in recovery funds for Syria, including aid to the White Helmets, amid a review of the future of the US role in the war-torn Arab country.

Anti-war activist Mike Raddie earlier told Russia's RT television network that the White Helmets has been instrumental in justifying the trilateral strikes on Syria and that the US relies on the group for another missile attack on the Arab country.

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