DAMASCUS, April 23 (Xinhua) -- Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad on Wednesday denied as "absolutely baseless" allegations by the opposition and some Western countries that Syrian government forces used toxic gas against rebel-held areas, the official SANA news agency reported.
Mekdad made the denial during a meeting with Sigrid Kaag, the special coordinator of the Joint Mission of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the United Nations, SANA said.
Earlier this month, the Syrian government and armed militant groups traded accusations regarding an alleged chlorine gas attack on the rebel-held area of Kafr Zaita in the central province of Hama. Two people were killed and 100 others suffered suffocation in that incident.
French President Francois Hollande also said recently that Syrian government forces used chlorine gas in a series of attacks in Syria, though he acknowledged that he had no clear proof that chlorine weapons were used.
Such accusations have come at a time when the Syrian government is delivering on its pledges to remove its chemical weapons, and the country is bracing for presidential elections slated for June 3.
On Tuesday, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said approximately 80 percent of the chemical weapons materials have been shipped out of Syria or destroyed.
During Wednesday's meeting with Kaag, Mekdad hailed the "big achievements" and the success that has been made in eradicating the country's chemical arsenal.
He attributed the progress to the "seriousness and responsibility" with which Syria has dealt with the joint mission.
Last September, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution to rid the conflict-torn Middle East country of its chemical weapons. Under the resolution, the OPCW was mandated to oversee the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons materials. The removal of the most critical material for destruction began in early January.