Syria: Govt won't use chemical weapons on population claims spokesman
last update: July 23, 12:38
Damascus, 23 July (AKI) - The embattled government of president Bashar al-Assad will not use chemical or biological weapons against the Syrian population, a spokesman for the country's foreign ministery claimed on Monday.
"The Syrian government's position is not to use chemical or biological weapons to end the current crisis," Jihad al-Maqdisi told journalists in Damascus .
"Our policy is never to use these weapons, which we have, unless we are attacked by a foreign power."
The Syrian army was carefully monitoring the country's stockpiles of chemical weapons stores in well-guarded warehouses, al-Maqdisi said.
But he warned there were "terrorist groups in possession of non-conventional weapons" which had entered Syria.
On Monday, Arab nations called on Assad to swiftly step aside as his troops launched a fresh assault on rebels in Damascus and the second city Aleppo amid a 16-month bloody revolt against his authoritarian rule in which up to 19,000 people have been killed, according to the opposition.
Syrian troops executed at least 20 unarmed men in the Damascus neighborhood of Mezzeh on Sunday who they suspected of aiding rebels in the area, according to opposition activists in the district cited by Reuters news agency.
In a joint statement issued after their meeting in Doha, Arab League foreign ministers promised that Assad and his family would be offered “a safe exit.”
The United States declared Sunday that it would “hold accountable” any Syrian official involved in the release or use of the country’s chemical weapons.
Fears have been growing in the West after reports that Assad might be prepared to use his arsenal of chemical weapons to save his embattled regime.
Syria’s top defector to date, its former ambassador to Iraq, Nawaf Fares, said in an interview with the BBC on 16 July he was “convinced” Assad would draw on his stocks of chemical weapons if cornered.
Intelligence from the region suggested that chemical weapons were being shifted in Syria according to a report earlier in July by The Wall Street Journal.
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