BEIRUT — 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 today.
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.
US 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 claimed 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.” (Reuters)