France: Syria's WMDs "under strict surveillance"

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A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on 8 July 2012, shows the launching of a rocket during Syrian army maneuvers at an undisclosed location in Syria. (Photo: AFP - HO - SANA)

Published Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Any use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces would be unacceptable, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Tuesday.

Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi, acknowledging for the first time that his country had chemical and biological weapons, said on Monday the Syrian army would not use chemical weapons to crush rebels but could use them against forces from outside the country.

"Any use of chemical arms is completely unacceptable. President Obama made statements to this effect and so have others... These weapons are under strict surveillance by the international community, " Fabius told France 2 television.

Makdissi's comments appeared to be a veiled threat to Israel, which has shown increased agitation in recent weeks over Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.

Over the weekend, Israel threatened to intervene militarily inside Syria if chemical weapons were to be transferred to Lebanon's Hezbollah.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said they would act if such a situation occurred as "it's something that is not acceptable to us (and) not acceptable to the United States."

A transfer of the weapons to Hezbollah seems unlikely, however, as the non-state actor lacks the required complex infrastructure to launch the missiles.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged last week that Syria had played an important role in assisting the Lebanese group during Israel's July 2006 war on Lebanon, including providing rockets.

Fabius also said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was bound to fall at some point and the Arab League offer of a safe exit would not save him from punishment.

Arab foreign ministers on Sunday offered Assad a "safe exit" if he stepped down – an offer rejected by the Assad regime.

Fabius also warned opposition groups that Syria's minorities must be protected should Assad fall.

"The fall of Bashar al-Assad must not bring about a persecution of minorities," he stressed.

France's position echoes that of US President Barack Obama, who warned Syria on Monday not to make the "tragic mistake" of deciding to unleash his stockpile of chemical weapons.

"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," Obama told an audience of US veterans in the western US state of Nevada.

"They will be held accountable by the international community and the United States should they make the tragic mistake of using those weapons," he added.

UN chief Ban Ki-Moon said the use of chemical weapons would be "reprehensible."

"It would be reprehensible if anybody in Syria is contemplating (the) use of such weapons of mass destruction like chemical weapons," Ban told reporters in Belgrade.

But neither the US nor the UN addressed Israel's increased rhetoric for a possible military strike on Syria.

(Al-Akhbar, AFP)

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