Syria Says No Chemical Weapons Use Against Insurgents

July 24, 2012

By Flavia Krause-Jackson and Donna Abu-Nas,

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said the nation’s chemical weapons are secure and won’t be used against insurgents, as U.S. President Barack Obama warned Syrian officials they “will be held accountable” if those weapons are unleashed.

Chemical weapons “would never be used against civilians or against the Syrian people during this crisis,” ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said at a Damascus press conference shown on state-run television.

“All the stocks of these weapons that the Syrian Arab Republic possesses are monitored and guarded by the Syrian Army,” he said, presenting part of his remarks in English. “These weapons are meant to be used only and strictly in the event of external aggression” against Syria, he said.

The comment left uncertain whether Makdissi was issuing a warning against foreign support for opposition fighters, who the regime headed by President Bashar al-Assad already characterize as foreign-backed terrorists. Further clouding the issue, the Foreign Ministry tried to roll back Makdissi’s comments with a subsequent written statement saying he was deliberately misinterpreted as confirming for the first time that Syria holds chemical weapons.

“The goal of the statement and the press conference wasn’t to declare but rather to respond to a methodical media campaign targeting Syria to prepare world public opinion for the possibility of military intervention under the false premise of weapons of mass destruction (similar to what happened with Iraq) or the possibility of using such weapons against terrorist groups or civilians, or transporting them to a third party,” the ministry said in its written statement.

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