Assad's regime may be developing new types of chemical weapons

02 February, 2018, 21:42 | Author: Genevieve Gibbs
  • Courtesy MGN

"We reserve the right to use military force to prevent or deter the use of chemical weapons", one official said, while declining to specify how serious a chemical attack would have to be to draw a military response.

Raising the alarm about the continued threat of the chemical weapons, US officials said it was "highly likely" that Assad kept a hidden stockpile of chemical weapons after 2013 that he failed to properly disclose.

"We reserve the right to use military force to prevent or deter the use of chemical weapons", one official said, while declining to specify how serious a chemical attack would have to be to draw a fresh U.S. military response.

Last April, the US military fired a barrage of missiles into Syria's Shayrat Airfield in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack that killed about 100 civilians.

US officials have said the Syrian government may be also developing new types of chemical weapons.

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The claims come amid reports of continued chemical attacks in Syria.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday that chlorine gas was known to have been weaponised "repeatedly" in attacks in Syria lately.

Another official added that there were hopes an increased diplomatic pressure with worldwide sanctions will rein in the Syrian regime's chemical weapons programme. The Islamic State (Isis) group has been accused of using mustard and chlorine gas in the civil war by delivering those using shells or improvised explosive devices.

The officials said the administration was prepared to take military action to deter the use of such weapons in Syria's near seven-year civil war.

He said Russia, President Bashar al-Assad's sponsor, was in violation of a 2013 agreement it made with the USA on the removal of chemical weapons from Syria and is helping the Syrian government to breach the CWC. Nearly all independent analysts and investigators agree the Syrian regime is the culprit of the chemical attacks.

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"We are even more concerned about the possibility of sarin use, (but) I don't have the evidence", Mattis said.

Assad's chemical weapons could spread to "US shores" the official said, should the global community not respond quickly to limit Assad, warning that "it will spread if we don't do something".

Syria and Russian Federation have both dismissed the conclusions of the Joint Investigative Mission (JIM), an expert body set up by the OPCW, that Assad's government used chlorine gas in 2014 and 2015, and sarin in April 2017.

Nearly 400,000 people in Eastern Ghouta have been under siege by the Government and allied militia since 2013.

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