THE Syrian regime has "dozens of 500lb bombs" being armed with Sarin nerve gas, according to reports of satellite imagery seen by the Pentagon at the end of last year.
His statement, which said that any use of chemical weapons would have "consequences" and that "the world would act", was followed by private messages to the Syrian authorities from Russia and neighbours including Turkey and Iraq that they would be held "personally responsible".
Syria readiness to use chemical weapons is fiercely debated. A spokesman said in July that the regime would not use such weapons "unless Syria is exposed to external aggression". Critics of Western policy claim that chemical weapon accusations are a fiction, comparing them to reports on Saddam Hussein's "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq.
Rami Jarrah, a Cairo-based Syrian activist, said sources inside the Syrian government had told colleagues the regime was now prepared to use weapons in areas of Aleppo and Idlib from which civilians had fled.
Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis affecting Syria's millions of refugees has worsened with extreme cold hitting camps across the region. The United Nations says there are now 600,000 refugees outside the country, along with many more displaced inside Syria.
The World Food Programme said it would be able to reach only 1.5 million of the 2.5 million people it intended to supply with food this month. An appeal to raise $5m (€3.8m) in donations to send wheat for making bread was launched by 152 Islamic charities around the world yesterday. (© Daily Telegraph, London)