Syria Warns Rebels May Use Chemical Weapons

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Syria warned on Saturday that rebels could use chemical weapons in their fight against President Bashar Assad's forces, and insisted that the regime will never unleash such arms on its own people.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, however, said there was evidence the Damascus government could actually employ chemical weapons stocks in the conflict which a rights group says has killed at least 42,000 people in nearly 21 months.

"Terrorist groups may resort to using chemical weapons against the Syrian people... after having gained control of a toxic chlorine factory" east of Aleppo, the foreign ministry said, using the government term for rebel groups.

It added that Damascus would never use such weapons against its own people.

The ministry was believed to be referring to the Syrian-Saudi Chemicals Company (SYSACCO) factory near Safira, which was taken over earlier this week by militants from the jihadist al-Nusra Front.

Syria "is defending its people against terrorism, which is supported by known countries, with the United States at the forefront," the ministry said.

Global concerns over Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles grew after U.S. officials this week privately said the regime had begun mixing precursor chemicals that could be used for the lethal nerve agent sarin.

Some media reports said that the substance had been loaded into bombs for warplanes.

Hague said on Saturday there was evidence Syrian government forces could use chemical weapons against the insurgency.

"We are extremely concerned about the stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and we are also concerned about evidence during the last couple of weeks that the regime could use them," he told reporters in Manama on the sidelines of a security conference.

Hague said Britain had joined the United States in delivering a strong message to Assad's government and that the global community had "contingency plans concerning chemical weapons but will not disclose them."

He cited several "dangerous scenarios," including their "use by the regime" or falling into the hands "of other people."

Washington has said the use of chemical weapons would be a red line but that it fears rebel battlefield advances could prompt the regime to use them, or that stocks could fall into the hands of groups hostile to the US and its allies.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said on Friday said it would be an "outrageous crime" if the regime used chemical weapons against the revolt.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the global chemical weapons watchdog, asked Damascus to sign up to a convention banning their use, citing "serious concerns" that for the first time in the agreement's history they might be used.

The opposition Syrian National Council said even neighboring countries would not be spared if such weapons were used.

"We ask the countries of the world to act before disaster hits, not after," SNC chief George Sabras said.

"The Syrian people will neither forget nor forgive anyone who orders the use of weapons of mass destruction, or anyone who is complicit in the crime, or anyone who moves only after the crime is committed."

Syria's new opposition coalition, meanwhile, said it will announce the creation of a military council before a Friends of Syria meeting next week, to unify insurgent ranks.

In mid-November, opposition factions agreed to establish the National Coalition and bring together rebel forces under a supreme military council.

"The council will be exclusively responsible for receiving military aid which we obtain" from outside Syria, council Secretary General Mustafa Sabbagh told AFP.

On the ground, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported at least four fighters killed as troops battling rebels near Damascus bombarded opposition strongholds in the south of the city and on its northeastern outskirts.

For several days, the army has pounded rebel strongholds on the capital's outskirts, raising fears of a looming ground assault.

Thirty-one of the 72 people killed nationwide on Friday died in the Damascus region, said the Britain-based Observatory, which relies on a countrywide network of activists and medics when compiling its tolls.

Comments 9
Default-user-icon Habib Tabrizian (Guest) 08 December 2012, 19:20

Undoubtedly just desperate regimes embark on such in human, criminel instrument not those who consider themselves as victorious. And SFA is at the gate of even in the center of Damascus. The are the morrow victorious.
I am an Iranian

Default-user-icon Habib Tabrizian (Guest) 08 December 2012, 19:29

Undoubtedly just desperate regimes embark on such in human, criminel instrument not those who consider themselves as victorious. And SFA is at the gate of even in the center of Damascus. The are the morrow victorious.

Missing realist 08 December 2012, 19:46

This clearly means that the regime is going down and intends to use chemical weapons. They are using the old pathetic lie that the rebels are killing their own families. Similarly in lebanon, hariri alomst killed himself according to M8 media, aliens killed wesam 7assan, etc. the syrian regime even said that the boy, hamza khatib, was on his way to rape women when he was murdered by the heroes of the bashar army.

Missing samiam 08 December 2012, 20:45

The regime really needs to hire a PR firm--their stories are so predictable. Wait, a spokesman for them just left and they really don't know how to BS as well.

Missing maroun 09 December 2012, 00:27

did they mean they will use chemical weapons and blame it on the rebels?
bashar's days are numbered and he is desperate

Missing gabby11 09 December 2012, 02:34

Bashar is a spoiled criminal. If he can't win he doesn't care who he kills or how. He doesn't have much longer. He is a cornered wounded animal. He will strike any way he can.

Missing eurybaric 09 December 2012, 03:54

Sadly! I hope this thing wraps up quickly!

Default-user-icon Russainwannbeamerican (Guest) 09 December 2012, 10:13

is "against our own people" an accurate translation?

does this mean that assad's forces will not use chemical weapons against SYRIANS, or does it mean only not against ALAWITES?

and even if means all syrians, what's to stop them from using them against israelis or lebanese or jordanians or turks, in an effort to widen the conflict, and muster (sic) support?

using chemical weapons against ANY civilians is a war crime, and the distinction betwen "our people" and anybody else is a pernicious one.

Thumb whyaskwhy 09 December 2012, 13:21

Agree with Eurybaric but you know how the middle east is as long as someone will funds these drives they will continue to burn. Communism fell many years ago in Russia yet we still have a communist party in Lebanon...looool