Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Maqdad yesterday said he feared Western countries were voicing concerns over his country’s possible use of chemical weapons to lay the ground for intervention, despite Damascus saying it would not use them.
Media reports citing US and European intelligence officials as saying Syria was preparing its chemical weapons for possible use were “theater,” Maqdad said in an interview with the Lebanese news channel al-Manar.
Syria has been mired in bloodshed since the start of a 20-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule, with his army turning the full force of its artillery and fighter jets against the rebels. Opposition forces and Western intelligence officials have said that recent rebel advances may provoke al-Assad into using chemical weapons.
“Syria stresses again, for a tenth and a hundredth time, if we had such weapons, they would not be used against its people. We would not commit suicide,” Maqdad said.
“In the event that [foreign powers] actually considered an aggression, they should consider the consequences. I believe the cost will be high,” he said.
The US and NATO, which has agreed to send Patriot missiles to the Turkish border with Syria, have issued strong warnings to Syria against the use of chemical warfare.
Washington has said that the use of chemical weapons would be a “red line” for the US.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said on Wednesday the US was worried an “increasingly desperate” al-Assad could resort to the use of chemical weapons against rebels, or lose control of them “to one of the many groups that are now operating within Syria.”
Maqdad said that Syria’s foes might give “terrorists” chemical weapons and then blame use of them on Damascus.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday said that al-Assad should be “brought to justice” if his regime uses chemical weapons to combat the armed revolt in Syria.
“I have expressed my gravest concerns to [the] government of Syria and I have sent a letter directed to President Assad a couple of days ago,” Ban told a joint news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad.
“I have warned that in any case, if chemical weapons are used, then whoever [it] may be will have to be brought to justice, and it will create serious consequences to those people,” Ban said.