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WMD reports baseless: Syria

(Reuters) / 7 December 2012

BEIRUT — Western powers are whipping up fears of a fateful move to the use of chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war as a “pretext for intervention”, Syria’s deputy foreign minister said on Thursday.

He spoke as Germany’s cabinet approved stationing Patriot anti-missile batteries on Turkey’s border with Syria, a step requiring deployment of Nato troops that Syria fears could permit imposition of a no-fly zone over its territory.

“Syria stresses again, for the tenth, the hundredth time, that if we had such weapons, they would not be used against its people. We would not commit suicide,” Faisal Maqdad said.

US President Barack Obama and other Nato leaders have warned that using chemical weapons would cross a red line and “there would be consequences”.

Maqdad said Western reports that the Syrian military was preparing chemical weapons for use against rebel forces trying to close in on the capital Damascus were simply “theatre”.

“In fact, we fear a conspiracy ... by the United States and some European states, which might have supplied such weapons to terrorist organisations in Syria, in order to claim later that Syria is the one that used these weapons,” he said on Lebanon’s Al Manar television.

“We fear there is a conspiracy to provide a pretext for any subsequent interventions in Syria by these countries that are increasing pressure on Syria.”

Exactly what Syria’s army has done with suspected chemical weapons to prompt a surge of Western warnings is not clear. Reports citing Western intelligence and defence sources are vague and inconsistent.

In addition to the possible use of chemical bombs by “President Bashar Al Assad, Clinton said Washington was concerned about the government losing control of such weapons to extremist groups among the rebel forces.

The United States is considering blacklisting one group suspected of ties to Al Qaeda. US officials confirmed that Jabhat Al Nusra, an influential rebel group accused of indiscriminate tactics that has advocated an Islamic state in Syria, was under review for blacklisting.

An explosion in front of the Damascus headquarters of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent killed at least one person on Thursday, Syrian state television said. It blamed terrorists from Al Qaeda — a term often employed to refer to rebel forces.

Meanwhile, activists said the army pummelled several eastern suburbs of Damascus, where the rebels are dominant, with artillery and mortar fire. The suburbs have also been cut off from the city’s water and electricity for weeks, rebels say, accusing the government of collective punishment.

 

 
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