Last Updated: Mon Jul 23, 2012 20:51 pm (KSA) 17:51 pm (GMT)

U.S. to Syria on chemical weapons: Don’t even think about it

Free Syrian Army members step on a picture of President Bashar Al-Assad. The White House said on Sunday that the U.S. would “hold accountable” any Syrian official involved in the release or use of the country’s chemical weapons. (Reuters)
Free Syrian Army members step on a picture of President Bashar Al-Assad. The White House said on Sunday that the U.S. would “hold accountable” any Syrian official involved in the release or use of the country’s chemical weapons. (Reuters)

The United States warned Syria Monday not to even consider using chemical weapons after Damascus raised the possibility of employing its stockpile of unconventional arms in the case of an outside attack.

“They should not think one iota about using chemical weapons,” Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters.

“We have been very strong in our statements inside the U.S. government on the prospective use of chemical weapons and it would be entirely unacceptable,” Little said.

His comments came after Syria acknowledged it has chemical weapons and said it would use them if attacked though not against its own civilians, amid a bloody conflict between regime troops and rebel forces.

The warning by foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi coincides with mounting international concern that Damascus may deploy its chemical arsenal to crush a 16-month uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

“When chemical weapons are mentioned in the press by Syrian officials, that raises concerns,” Little said.

“We would strongly object -- to put it mildly -- to any thinking that would generate a motivation on the part of the Syrian regime to employ these weapons,” he added.

The White House said on Sunday that the United States would “hold accountable” any Syrian official involved in the release or use of the country’s chemical weapons.

Israel has warned it could take military action against Syria if any of the regime’s unconventional or advanced weapons end up in the hands of Hezbollah.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that the fate of Syria’s weapons stockpiles was of greater concern to him than who or what would replace the Assad regime.

The Pentagon spokesman said the United States has discussed the situation in Syria and the regime’s stockpiles of chemical weapons with allies, including Israel, but declined to comment on Israel’s warnings of potential military action.

The Syrian regime “has responsibility for the security of these stockpiles,” Little said, adding, it has “a responsibility to uphold that obligation.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-Moon meanwhile said that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be “reprehensible”.

“It would be reprehensible if anybody in Syria is contemplating (the) use of such weapons of mass destruction like chemical weapons,” Ban told reporters in Belgrade on the fourth leg of his Balkans tour.

“What is (a) concern is that they are not parties to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW),” said Ban.

However, Ban stressed that “all the countries have an obligation not to use any weapons of mass destruction, whether they are parties or not to any convention or agreement”.

The OPCW is responsible for implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention aimed at eliminating such weapons.

Syrian soldiers in Golan

Also on Monday, Israel accused Syrian security forces of straying into an Israeli-occupied slice of Syria that is patrolled by U.N. peacekeepers to maintain a ceasefire between the neighboring countries.

In a letter to Ban Ki-moon and the U.N. Security Council, Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Haim Waxman said Syrian soldiers crossed into the Golan Heights area on Thursday amid fighting between Syrian security forces and opposition groups on Thursday.

The 400-square-km (155-square-mile) Golan Heights is a so-called “area of separation” where Syrian military forces are not allowed under a 1974 ceasefire deal. Israel and Syria are still formally at war.

“Their action represents a blatant violation of this agreement, with potentially far-reaching implications for the security and stability of the region,” Waxman wrote.


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