POLITICS

Obama warns Syria against using chemical weapons

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Syria's arsenal is a particular threat to the American allies, Turkey and Israel, and Obama singled out the threat posed by the unconventional weapons earlier this year as a potential cause for deeper U.S. involvement in Syria's civil war. Up to now, the United States has opposed military intervention or providing arms support to Syria's rebels for fear of further militarizing a conflict that activists say has killed more than 40,000 people since March 2011.

Activity has been detected at Syrian weapons sites before.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in late September the intelligence suggested the Syrian government had moved some of its chemical weapons in order to protect them. He said the U.S. believed that the main sites remained secure.

Asked Monday if they were still considered secure, Pentagon press secretary George Little declined to comment about any intelligence related to the weapons.

Senior lawmakers were notified last week that U.S. intelligence agencies had detected activity related to Syria's chemical and biological weapons, said a U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the closed-door meetings. All congressional committees with an interest in Syria, from the intelligence to the armed services committees, are now being kept informed.

"I can't comment on these reports, but I have been very concerned for some time now about Syria's stockpiles of chemical weapons and its stocks of advanced conventional weapons like shoulder-launched anti-aircraft missiles," said House intelligence committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich.

"We are not doing enough to prepare for the collapse of the Assad regime, and the dangerous vacuum it will create. Use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime would be an extremely serious escalation that would demand decisive action from the rest of the world," he added.

The U.S. and Jordan share the same concern about Syria's chemical and biological weapons - that they could fall into the wrong hands should the regime in Syria collapse and lose control of them.

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