World Bulletin / News Desk
Western powers are whipping up fears of a fateful move to the use of chemical weapons in Syria's civil war as a "pretext for intervention", President Bashar al-Assad's deputy foreign minister said on Thursday.
He spoke as Germany's cabinet approved stationing Patriot anti-missile batteries on Turkey's border with Syria, a step requiring deployment of NATO troops that Syria fears could permit imposition of a no-fly zone over its territory.
"Syria stresses again, for the tenth, the hundredth time, that if we had such weapons, they would not be used against its people. We would not commit suicide," Faisal Maqdad said.
U.S. President Barack Obama and other NATO leaders have warned that using chemical weapons would cross a red line and "there would be consequences". Assad would probably lose vital diplomatic support from Russia and China that has blocked military intervention in the 20-month-old uprising that has clamed more than 40,000 lives.
Maqdad said Western reports that the Syrian military was preparing chemical weapons for use against rebel forces trying to close in on the capital Damascus were simply "theatre".
"In fact, we fear a conspiracy ... by the United States and some European states, which might have supplied such weapons to terrorist organisations in Syria, in order to claim later that Syria is the one that used these weapons," he said on Lebanon's Al Manar television, the voice of Hezbollah.
"We fear there is a conspiracy to provide a pretext for any subsequent interventions in Syria by these countries that are increasing pressure on Syria."
Exactly what Syria's army has done with suspected chemical weapons to prompt a surge of Western warnings is not clear. Reports citing Western intelligence and defence sources are vague and inconsistent.
The perceived threat may be discussed in Dublin on Thursday when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meet international Syria mediator Lakhdar Brahimi to try to put a U.N. peace process for Syria back on track.
The talks come ahead of a meeting of the Western-backed "Friends of Syria" group in Marrakech next week which is expected to boost support for rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Brahimi wants world powers to issue a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a transitional administration.
The Western military alliance's decision to send U.S., German and Dutch Patriot missile batteries to help defend the Turkish border would bring European and U.S. troops to Syria's frontier for the first time in the 20-month-old civil war.
The actual deployment could take several weeks.
"Some countries now are now supplying Turkey with missiles for which there is no excuse. Syria is not going to attack the Turkish people," Maqdad said.
But a veteran Turkish commentator, Cengiz Candar of the Radikal newspaper, said Ankara fears Syria's 500 short-range ballistic missiles could fall into the wrong hands.
The government is "of the view that Syria was not expected to use them against Turkey, but that there was a risk of these weapons falling into the hands of 'uncontrolled forces' when the regime collapses", he wrote.Last Mod: 06 Aralık 2012, 13:24