Syrian Chemical Weapon Use Would Spark World Reaction, NATO Says

By Jonathan Tirone and Indira A.R. Lakshmanan on December 04, 2012

NATO’s warning came a day after U.S. officials reported that satellite images showed Syrian forces moving chemical weapons into positions where they could be used more quickly. The officials, speaking under condition of anonymity, also said intelligence sources intercepted Syrian orders to prepare Sarin nerve gas for potential use.

“The possible use of chemical weapons would be completely unacceptable for the whole international community,” Rasmussen said today in Brussels, according to a transcript posted on NATO’s website. “If anybody resorts to these terrible weapons, I would expect an immediate reaction from the international community.”

The military alliance, which may deploy a missile-defense system along Turkey’s border with Syria, hasn’t become directly involved in the uprising. The 20-month-long conflict has killed more than 30,000 people, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

NATO’s warning over the possible use of chemical weapons echoes similar remarks by the U.S.

“I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command: the world is watching,” President Barack Obama said yesterday in a speech at the National Defense University in Washington. “The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable, and if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held accountable.”

Foreign ministers from NATO’s 28 members convened two days of meetings today in Brussels. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, an ally of Syria, also attended the meeting.
‘Great Concern’

“The Syrian stockpiles of chemical weapons are a matter of great concern,” Rasmussen said. “We know that Syria possesses missiles. We know they have chemical weapons and of course they also have to be included in our calculations and this is also the reason why it is a matter of urgency to ensure effective defense and protection of our ally Turkey.”

Turkey asked NATO for the Patriot system, designed to intercept aircraft or missiles, after weeks of talks about how to shore up security on its 900-kilometer (560-mile) border as the conflict in Syria deepens.

Last week, Syrian warplanes attacked targets close to the Turkish border as officers from the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands arrived to evaluate possible sites for Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries.

‘Provocative’ Patriots

Syria has called the Patriot plan “provocative,” and its allies Russia and Iran have protested what they regard as a first step toward implementing a no-fly zone or military action against Assad’s regime. Russian President Vladimir Putin was in Turkey yesterday for meetings including with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“The purpose of the possible deployment of Patriot missiles is to protect the Turkish population and Turkish territory against missile attacks,” Rasmussen said. “We have no intention to prepare offensive operations, so the purpose of this possible deployment is to ensure effective defense and protection of Turkey.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Jonathan Tirone in Vienna at; Indira A.R.