Syria chemical weapons a 'red line': US

2012-12-04 08:00
(AFP, File)

(AFP, File)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Beirut - Syria vowed on Monday not to use chemical weapons against its own people, amid direct warnings from the highest levels of the US government following news reports suggesting chemical weapons activity within war-torn Syria.

Both US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and their spokespersons issued warnings to Damascus that any use of chemical weapons against the rebels fighting the regime would not go unanswered.

"I want to make it absolutely clear to [President Bashar] Assad and those under his command that the world is watching," Obama said at a symposium on nuclear non-proliferation at the National Defence University near Washington.

"The use of chemical weapons is and will be totally unacceptable. If you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences, and you would be held accountable."

Clinton, speaking earlier in Prague, warned that the United States would take action if Syria used chemical weapons against its own people.

"Once again we issue a very strong warning to the Assad regime that their behaviour is reprehensible," Clinton said. "Their actions against their own people have been tragic. We are certainly planning to take action if [chemical weapon use] were to occur."

Mustard gas, sarin

Damascus responded by issuing a statement on state-run television quoting a Foreign Ministry official as saying Syria "will never, under any circumstances, use chemical weapons against its own people, if such weapons exist".

Western media reports cited unnamed US officials as saying that al-Assad's government had moved its chemical weapons, raising fears he could use them against rebels making gains in their fight to overthrow the regime.

Syria's arsenal is believed to include mustard gas and sarin, a highly toxic nerve agent.

The New York Times on Sunday quoted an unnamed US official referring to Syria's "potential chemical weapon preparation". The activity included the transfer of some weapons to different locations within the country.

The website Wired reported on Monday that engineers working for al-Assad's regime had begun combining the two chemical precursors needed to weaponise sarin gas. Wired attributed the information to a US official with knowledge of the situation.

White House spokesperson Jay Carney said the US was concerned that an increasingly beleaguered regime might be considering the use of chemical weapons after finding the use of conventional weapons inadequate.

Red line

Carney also referred to Obama's statement in August about Syria crossing a "red line" on chemical weapons. The US has resisted direct military involvement in the Syrian conflict, but Obama said a change in the status of Syria's chemical weapons would alter that.

"A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilised. That would change my calculus."

The rebels have made significant gains in recent weeks after months of stalemate, capturing military bases and in recent days making a push to capture the main civilian airport in Damascus.

Clinton's warning came as the leaders of Russia, Syria's main ally, and Turkey, which backs the rebels, met in Istanbul to discuss the conflict, on which they are divided.

"We are not protecting the regime, and we are not advocates for [the Syrian regime] ... what worries us is the future of Syria," Russian President Vladimir Putin said after talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Putin was scheduled to meet Erdogan in October, but the visit was postponed after Turkey said it had found Russian-made military equipment on a Damascus-bound Syrian plane.

Syrian forces used fighter jets and artillery fire on Monday to pound rebel-held areas around the airport, while rebels claimed they had cut electricity to the facility.

Airport shut down

State television said troops struck hard at "terrorist bases" near the airport and the battle "to protect Damascus" continues.

Activists in Damascus said that groups of army "special forces" were seen deploying near the airport road and its outskirts.

The airport came to a complete halt on Friday when rebels and troops clashed near the complex, prompting several airlines to suspend flights.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group, reported that government forces were enhancing posts near the airport, as well as near the Mezzeh military airport.

Both transport facilities are key for the regime, especially the Mezzeh airport, as it is the closet to the presidential palace in the capital, Observatory head Rami Abdul-Rahman told dpa.

The Local Co-ordination Committees, another activist group, said 150 people were killed on Monday. It added that 30 men were summarily executed in area at the outskirts of Damascus.

The escalating violence prompted the United Nations and the European Union to decide to reduce the activities of their missions in Syria.

Meanwhile, Arab media reports said that Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jihad Makdissi was either sacked or resigned from his post. Other reports said he had defected.


Read more on:    bashar assad  |  hillary clinton  |  barack obama  |  syria  |  us  |  syria conflict  |  uprisings

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


ANCYL: Not voting would be blasphemy

Not voting in the forthcoming elections would be blasphemy, the ANCYL says in a statement commemorating the 50th anniversary of struggle icon Nelson Mandela's Rivonia trial speech.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Canon EOS 600D

The Canon EOS 600D Digital Camera puts the widely respected...

From R5389.95

I'm shopping for:


There may be a break through, either through quiet contemplative time to connect to your deep side or forced on you more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.