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Russia again claims Syrian rebels preparing chemical attack

MOSCOW — Russia has again accused Syrian rebels of preparing a chemical attack which Moscow says will be used to justify a Western strike against the Syrian military.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Tuesday that the al-Qaida-linked Levant Liberation Committee is preparing the attack in the northern Idlib province, and that it would be filmed by first-responders known as the White Helmets, who Russia has accused of fabricating past attacks.

Western countries and independent analysts say Syrian government forces have conducted several chemical weapons attacks over the course of the seven-year civil war. Alleged chemical attacks in 2017 and earlier this year led the U.S. to launch punitive strikes against Syrian forces.

Russia is a close ally of the Syrian government, which denies ever using chemical weapons.