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‘Will use WMD if attacked’

 

The Syrian regime threatened Monday to use its chemical and biological weapons in case of a foreign attack, in its first ever acknowledgement that it possesses weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi vowed, however, that Damascus would not use its unconventional arms against its own citizens. The announcement comes as Syria faces international isolation, a tenacious rebellion that has left at least 19,000 people dead and threats by Israel to invade to prevent such weapons from falling into rebel hands.

 

Syria's decision to reveal the long suspected existence of its chemical weapons suggests a desperate regime deeply shaken by an increasingly bold rebellion that has scored a string of successes in the past week, including a stunning bomb attack that killed four high-level security officials, the capture of several border crossings and sustained offensives on the regime strongholds of Damascus and Aleppo.

 

“No chemical or biological weapons will ever be used, and I repeat, will never be used, during the crisis in Syria no matter what the developments inside Syria,” Makdissi said in news conference broadcast on Syrian state TV. “All of these types of weapons are in storage and under security and the direct supervision of the Syrian armed forces and will never be used unless Syria is exposed to external aggression.”

 

While the statement Makdissi read out promised not to use the weapons against the Syrian people, he later noted that Syria is not facing an internal enemy in the rebellion, which the regime has described as being funded from abroad and driven by foreign extremists.

 

Syria is believed to have nerve agents as well as mustard gas, Scud missiles capable of delivering these lethal chemicals and a variety of advanced conventional arms, including anti-tank rockets and late-model portable anti-aircraft missiles. Israel has said it fears that chaos following Assad’s fall could allow the Jewish state’s enemies to access Syria’s chemical weapons.

 

A US intelligence official said Friday the Syrians have moved chemical weapons material from the northern end, where the fighting was fiercest.

 

Support for Arafat poisoning probe

Arab officials meeting in Doha have approved an international probe into Yasser Arafat’s death, after a report said he may have been poisoned, Palestinian official Saeb Erakat said.

 

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas “proposed forming an international investigative commission on the martyrdom of Arafat” at a meeting of the Arab League’s Peace Initiative Committee in Doha, he said.

 

The committee has approved the proposal and Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi will follow up on this matter.

 

Earlier this month a probe by the Al-Jazeera found elevated levels of radioactive substance polonium on some of Arafat’s belongings, reviving suspicions that the veteran leader may have been poisoned.

07/24/2012



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