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Obama WARNS Syria over chemical weapons

Last updated on: July 24, 2012 12:35 IST

Obama WARNS Syria over chemical weapons

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Lalit K Jha in Washington

United States President Barack Obama has warned Syria's Assad regime that it would be held 'accountable' if it uses its stockpile of chemical weapons.

"Given the regime's stockpiles of chemical weapons, we will continue to make it clear to Assad and those around him that the world is watching, and that they will be held accountable by the international community and the US, should they make the tragic mistake of using those weapons," Obama said.

Syria had said that it would only unleash its deadly stockpile of chemical or biological weapons if it was attacked by outside forces, according to a report. The country has also flatly rejected a call by Arab nations for President Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power to end the country''s escalating crisis.

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Image: U S President Barack Obama speaks at the 113th VFW National Convention in Reno
Photographs: Larry Downing/Reuters

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Obama WARNS Syria over chemical weapons

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Addressing the 113th National Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nevada, Obama said that his administration is working for a transition so the Syrian people can have a better future, free of the Assad regime.

"We will continue to work with our friends and our allies and the Syrian opposition on behalf of the day when the Syrian people have a government that respects their basic rights to live in peace and freedom and dignity," he said.

Obama's remarks came hours after the Pentagon issued a similar warning to the Assad regime. Jihad Makdissi, the Syrian foreign ministry spokesman, had said that the weapons would only be used in case of a foreign attack on Syria and not against its own people.

"No chemical or biological weapons will ever be used, and I repeat, will never be used no matter what the developments inside Syria," the Guardian had quoted Makdissi, as saying.

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Image: Syria's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jihad Makdissi speaks during a news conference in Damascus
Photographs: Reuters

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Obama WARNS Syria over chemical weapons

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"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," the Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

"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.

"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 said, adding that the Syrian regime is aware of the concerns of the international community.

"We believe that public messaging has an effect. We also believe that the regime has received the message through other channels," Little said.


Image: Portraits of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (top) and his father former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad (rear) are seen at the Rabia border crossing, the main border post between Iraq and Syria
Photographs: Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters

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