The United States on Monday warned the Syrian regime headed by President Bashar al-Assad not to even consider using using chemical weapons, just hours after the Syrian government said it will use such weapons only in case of external aggression.
"The Syrian regime is already responsible for unacceptable levels of deplorable violence against the Syrian population, and they should not think one iota about using chemical weapons," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters in Washington.
Hours earlier, Syrian foreign ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi told a news conference in Damascus that Syria's chemical and biological weapons will only be used in case of external aggression. He insisted that such weapons will never be used against Syrian citizens.
"When chemical weapons are mentioned in the press by Syrian officials, that raises concerns. And we just want to make it known that 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," Little said during the Washington press briefing.
Reaffirming Washington's commitment to finding a solution to the Syrian crisis, Little said: "We've been talking with a number of our partners about the situation in Syria. We, and they, share very serious concerns about the overall situation in Syria, to include chemical weapons."
He also stressed that the Syrian regime appears to be aware of the mounting international concerns over the possible use of chemical weapons, and said: "We believe that public messaging has an effect. We also believe that the regime has received the message through other channels."
Hours earlier, US President Barack Obama had urged the Syrian regime against making a "tragic mistake" by using chemical weapons, saying that it will be held accountable by the United States as well as the rest of the international community in such an event.
"Given the regime's stockpile of chemical weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad and those around him that the world is watching. They will be held accountable by the international community and the United States should they make the tragic mistake of using those weapons," Obama said.
Separately, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon voiced concerns about the possible use of chemical weapons in the ongoing Syrian conflict, and urged the international community to ensure that no such weapons are used in the unrest-hit Middle East nation.
Syria is not a party to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), the implementing body of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
The Chemical Weapons Convention aims to aims to eliminate an entire category of weapons of mass destruction by prohibiting the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention, transfer or use of chemical weapons by states.
by RTT Staff Writer
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