Last Updated: Mon Aug 20, 2012 21:41 pm (KSA) 18:41 pm (GMT)

Obama says use or movement of chemical weapons in Syria ‘red line’

U.S. President Barack Obama said the use of weapons of mass destruction, which Syria has, would widen the conflict considerably. (Reuters)
U.S. President Barack Obama said the use of weapons of mass destruction, which Syria has, would widen the conflict considerably. (Reuters)

U.S. President Barack Obama warned on Monday the regime of President Bashar Assad - and “other players on the ground” - that the use or movement of chemical weapons would be a “red line” for the United States.

President Obama said U.S. thinking on possible military involvement in Syria would change if chemical or biological weapons came into play in the Syrian civil war.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Obama said the use of such weapons of mass destruction, which Syria has, would widen the conflict considerably.

“It doesn’t just include Syria. It would concern allies in the region, including Israel, and it would concern us,” Obama said.

On July 27, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was “deeply” concerned about reports of the possible use of chemical weapons by Syria, and demanded the government pledge it would not use them “under any circumstances.”

“I remain deeply concerned about the reports of the possible use of chemical weapons,” he told reporters, citing one report in which Syria said it would use such weapons if it was attacked by foreign powers.

Russia said it received assurances from Syria that chemical weapons are secure. “We have received firm assurances from Damascus that the security of these arsenals is fully ensured,” Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said in an interview with the ITAR-TASS news agency on July 25.

Gatilov stressed that Syria as a signatory of the Geneva protocol banning the use of chemical weapons “had taken on itself concrete obligations to renounce such methods of warfare.”

“We consider that Syria must fulfill its obligations,” he said.

Western countries and Israel have voiced fears that chemical weapons could fall into the hands of militant groups as the authority of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad erodes.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said Israel would consider military action, if needed, to ensure those weapons did not reach Assad’s Hezbollah guerrilla allies in Lebanon. Israel says Hezbollah, a bitter enemy, has some 70,000 rockets in its arsenal.

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