US claims having intel on ‘chemicals’
WASHINGTON / AMSTERDAM - Reuters
Defense Secretary Panetta says the US worries about Syria is thinking of using its chemical weapons. AP PhotoThe United States has seen intelligence raising serious concerns that President Bashar al-Assad’s government is considering using chemical weapons, said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, a day before the Dutch government agreed to send two Patriot missile systems to Turkey.
“I think there is no question that we remain very concerned, very concerned that as the opposition advances, in particular on Damascus, that the regime might very well consider the use of chemical weapons,” Panetta told reporters in Washington on Dec. 6.
“The intelligence that we have raises serious concerns that this is being considered.”
Dutch to sent Patriots, 360 personnel to Turkey
Panetta’s remarks came a day before the Dutch government has agreed to send two Patriot missile systems to Turkey after Ankara asked NATO for assistance in defending its border with Syria, Dutch news agency ANP reported, citing the Dutch foreign minister.
A maximum of 360 personnel will accompany the two surface-to-air missile batteries. It has not yet been decided where they will be sited. The Germany said on Dec. 6 it had approved to deploy Patriot missiles to Turkey and will send up to 400 troops.
Several Western countries have issued coordinated warnings this week to al-Assad’s government not to use chemical weapons, many citing secret intelligence that U.S. officials have said showed al-Assad’s government might be preparing to use poison gas.
U.S. President Barack Obama has warned of consequences should al-Assad use the weapons, with the White House citing “contingency planning” when asked about the possibility of military intervention.
Panetta restated Obama’s warning of consequences for al-Assad, adding: “I’m not going to speculate or comment on what those potential consequences would be.” “But I think it’s fair enough to say that their use of those weapons would cross a red line for us,” he said. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also said the use of chemical weapons by al-Assad would be an “outrageous crime.”
“If it is the case, then it will be an outrageous crime in the name of humanity,” Ban said during a visit to Turkey. “Recently we have been receiving alarming news that the Syrian government has been preparing to use chemical weapons. We have no confirmed report on this matter,” he added.
The U.N. chief said that he had written a letter to al-Assad urging him “not to use under any circumstances chemical weapons” and warning him that “it will create huge consequences.”