Syria Says It Could Use WMDs Against 'External Aggression'
Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi told reporters that any weapons of mass destruction that the country possesses would never be used against its citizens and “are meant to be used only and strictly in the event of external aggression” against Syria.
Makdissi made the remarks after months of international speculation about whether foreign countries should use military action to end the ongoing bloodshed in Syria.
The United States has pressured Syria to never use the weapons and keep them safely stored. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that any talk from Syria about using WMDs is “horrific and chilling.”
“The Syrian regime has a responsibility to the world, has a responsibility first and foremost to its own citizens to protect and safeguard those weapons,” Nuland said.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said it is unacceptable for Syria to talk about using chemical weapons under any circumstances, adding that it is a “complete illusion” that the country faces any sort of external threat, Reuters reported.
Western countries and Israel have also voiced fears that chemical weapons could end up in the possession of militant groups as Assad’s stranglehold on the country weakens. Israel has publicly floated the idea of using military action to prevent Syrian chemical weapons from reaching Assad’s militant allies such as Hezbollah.
Meanwhile, the Arab League said it will offer Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “a safe exit” for him and his family if he steps down, according to The Guardian. The League also promised $100 million for Syrian refugees in neighboring countries.
But Assad has shown no sign of giving up power. Government forces attacked rebel pockets of resistance in Damascus on Sunday, executing 20 unarmed men who they suspected of helping rebels, opposition activists told the Guardian.
Assad’s forces have orchestrated an aggressive counter-offensive since rebels killed four of the president’s associates in a bomb attack last Wednesday.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that more than 1,200 people have been killed across Syria since last Sunday when violence escalated in Damascus, according to Reuters.