US warns Syria amid chemical weapon fears

Agence France-Presse
US said Syrian officials would be "held accountable" if they failed to safeguard the country's chemical weapons

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AFP) – The US said on Friday, July 13, that Syrian officials would be “held accountable” if they failed to safeguard the country’s chemical weapons after a report suggested some were being moved out of storage.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, July 12, that intelligence reports suggested some chemical weapons were on the move, but the reasons for the transfers were unclear.

It said some US officials feared the weapons could be used against rebels or civilians, while others believed the material was being deliberately hidden from armed opposition groups or Western powers.

“We have repeatedly made it clear that the Syrian government has a responsibility to safeguard its stockpiles of chemical weapons,” spokeswoman for the US State Department Victoria Nuland told reporters.

“The international community will hold accountable any Syrian officials who fail to meet that obligation,” she added in a statement during a trip by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Cambodia.

The Wall Street Journal said the Obama administration was “particularly worried about Syria’s stocks of sarin gas, the deadly and versatile nerve agent”.

Syria is also believed to have reserves of mustard gas and cyanide.

“It’s very important that the Syrian regime maintains its control and security of these very dangerous weapons,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said.

“Our assessment remains what it’s been for some time, that the Syrian regime has control of its chemical weapons stockpiles. We’re watching very closely, not just the United States but the international community.”

More than 17,000 people have been killed in violence since an uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime broke out in March last year, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. – Agence France-Presse