By Flavia Krause-Jackson and Donna Abu-Nas, Bloomberg.com
The Syrian Foreign Ministry said the nationâ€™s chemical weapons are secure and wonâ€™t be used against insurgents, as U.S. President Barack Obama warned Syrian officials they â€œwill be held accountableâ€ if those weapons are unleashed.
Chemical weapons â€œwould never be used against civilians or against the Syrian people during this crisis,â€ ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi said at a Damascus press conference shown on state-run television.
â€œAll the stocks of these weapons that the Syrian Arab Republic possesses are monitored and guarded by the Syrian Army,â€ he said, presenting part of his remarks in English. â€œThese weapons are meant to be used only and strictly in the event of external aggressionâ€ 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 Makdissiâ€™s comments with a subsequent written statement saying he was deliberately misinterpreted as confirming for the first time that Syria holds chemical weapons.
â€œThe goal of the statement and the press conference wasnâ€™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,â€ the ministry said in its written statement.
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