Syria admits it has chemical, biological weapons

CBC.ca

The Syrian regime threatened Monday to use its chemical and biological weapons in case of a foreign attack, in its first ever acknowledgement that it possesses weapons of mass destruction.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi stressed, however, that Damascus would not use its unconventional arms against its own citizens. The announcement comes as Syria faces international isolation, a tenacious rebellion that has left at least 19,000 people dead and threats by Israel to attack to prevent such weapons from falling into rebel hands.

Syria’s decision to reveal the long suspected existence of its chemical weapons suggests a desperate regime deeply shaken by an increasingly bold revolt that has scored a string of successes in the past week, including a stunning bomb attack that killed four high-level security officials, the capture of several border crossings and sustained offensives on the regime strongholds of Damascus and Aleppo.

“No chemical or biological weapons will ever be used, and I repeat, will never be used, during the crisis in Syria no matter what the developments inside Syria,” Makdissi said in news conference broadcast on Syrian state TV. “All of these types of weapons are in storage and under security and the direct supervision of the Syrian armed forces and will never be used unless Syria is exposed to external aggression.”

While the statement Makdissi read out promised not to use the weapons against the Syrian people, he later noted that Damascus is not facing an internal enemy in the rebellion, which the regime has described as being funded from abroad and driven by foreign extremists.

He added that there was a foreign political and media campaign “that seeks to justify and prepare international public opinion for military intervention under the false pretense of weapons of mass destruction.”

Mustard gas and missiles

Syria is believed to have nerve agents as well as mustard gas, Scud missiles capable of delivering these lethal chemicals and a variety of advanced conventional arms, including anti-tank rockets and late-model portable anti-aircraft missiles.

Israel has said it fears that chaos following Assad’s fall could allow the Jewish state’s enemies to access Syria’s chemical weapons, and has not ruled out military intervention to prevent this from happening.

A senior U.S. intelligence official said Friday the Syrians have moved chemical weapons material from the country’s north, where the fighting was fiercest, apparently to both secure it, and to consolidate it, which U.S. officials considered a responsible step.

But there has also been a disturbing rise in activity at the installations, so the U.S. intelligence community is intensifying its monitoring efforts to track the weapons and try to figure out whether the Syrians are trying to use them, the official said on condition of anonymity to discuss the still-evolving investigation. – CBC.ca

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