[QODLink]
Middle East
Russia says no chemical weapons use in Syria
Moscow says Damascus has guaranteed it will not deploy its arsenal of chemical weapons, after warning from Washington.
Last Modified: 24 Aug 2012 08:23
Syrian activists posted video on YouTube that allegedly shows chemical weapons being used on civilian areas in Homs

The Syrian government has guaranteed Russia that it will not use or move its stockpiles of chemical weapons, the Russian foreign ministry's point man on Syria has said.

Speaking in an interview with The Associated Press on Thursday, Gennady Gatilov, the Russian deputy foreign minister, said that Moscow was working closely with Damascus to make sure its arsenal of chemical weapons remained securely in place.

The statement follows a warning from US President Barack Obama earlier this week that Washington might be forced to intervene in the Syrian civil war if the Damascus government were to utilise or move such weapons of mass destruction. 

Damascus has said it might use its chemical weapons if attacked by outsiders, although not against its own people.

But some have activists have accused government forces of using chemical weapons to attack opposition-controlled cities and towns in its bid to crush the country's 17-month popular uprising. The reports can not be confirmed due to restrictions on foreign journalists. 

Gatilov said: "We have received from them [Syria] very clear assurances that the Syrian government will do everything in its power to prevent this from happening, so that chemical weapons securely stay where they are now. We were assured that very serious control is being applied to ensure the preservation of these weapons and that now there is no threat that something might happen to them, taking the situation out of control."

He added that Moscow is in full agreement with Washington on the need to prevent Syria's chemical weapons from being used.

"The situation getting out of control is fraught with most serious complications not just for Syria, but also for the entire region," said Gatilov.

'WMD situation'

As Syrian opposition fighters gain control over cities and towns across the country, there are rising fears that government forces will use chemical weapons in its bid to crush the uprising, a move that would impact civilian areas. 

"This is totally new territory historically. Never in history has a WMD-armed country fallen into civil war," said Charles Blair of the Federation of American Scientists.

"This has never happened," he told AFP.

"We don't have perfect visibility to all the chemical weapons sites but we have very effective ways of monitoring chemical stockpiles," said a senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

As the US monitors the chemical arsenal with the help of spy satellites, officials have to take into account "whether the regime intends to use it, whether it falls into the wrong hands and whether there's a collapse of security around the sites", according to the official.

Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, which dates back to the 1970s, is the biggest in the Middle East, but its precise scope remains unclear, according to analysts.

Syria has hundreds of tonnes of various chemical agents, including sarin and VX nerve agents, as well as older blistering agents such as mustard gas, dispersed in about 50 manufacturing and storage sites, experts say.

489

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
The conservative UMP party suffers from crippling internal divisions and extreme debt from mismanagement.
More than fifty years of an armed struggle for independence from Spain might be coming to an end in the Basque Country.
After the shooting-down of flight MH17, relatives ask what the carrier has learned from still-missing MH370.
Human rights and corporate responsibility prompt a US church to divest from companies doing business with Israel.
Afghan militias have accumulated a lengthy record of human-rights abuses, including murders and rapes.
join our mailing list