Tuesday 24 April 2018

Desperate Assad may use chemicals on rebels: Clinton

David Brunnstrom Brussels

The United States is worried that an increasingly desperate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could resort to the use of chemical weapons against rebels, or lose control of them, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (pictured) has warned.

After a meeting of NATO foreign ministers at which they agreed to send Patriot anti-missile batteries to Syrian neighbour Turkey, Mrs Clinton said Washington had made clear to Syria that use of chemical arms would be a "red line" for the US.

"Our concerns are that an increasingly desperate Assad regime might turn to chemical weapons, or might lose control of them to one of the many groups that are now operating within Syria," she said.

"And so as part of the absolute unity that we all have on this issue we have sent an unmistakable message that this would cross a red line and those responsible would be held to account." Saying a political transition in Syria needed to start as soon as possible, Mrs Clinton said the US would do what it could to support Assad's adversaries, now that a new opposition coalition has been formed.

The US and other countries will discuss at a meeting of the Friends of Syria group in Marrakesh, Morocco, next week what more they could do to try to bring the Syrian conflict to an end, she said.

"But that will require the Assad regime making the decision to participate in a political transition (and) ending the violence against its own people. . . We hope that they do so because we believe their fall is inevitable. It is just a question of how many people will die until that date occurs."

Mrs Clinton said that with the new coalition, the US was "going to be doing what we can to support that opposition".

Irish Independent

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