News / Middle East

Obama Warns Syria Not to Use Chemical Weapons

President Barack Obama addresses convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nev. July 23, 2012President Barack Obama addresses convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nev. July 23, 2012
President Barack Obama addresses convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nev. July 23, 2012
President Barack Obama addresses convention of Veterans of Foreign Wars in Reno, Nev. July 23, 2012
VOA News
U.S. President Barack Obama is warning Syria against using chemical weapons, saying that would be a "tragic mistake."

Obama told a veterans convention in the western city of Reno, Nevada Monday that the world is watching Syria. He said President Bashar al-Assad would be held accountable if his nation used poison gas and other deadly chemicals.

A Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, said the government would never use chemical weapons against its own people, but would unleash them against what he called foreign invaders. He said the military is securely guarding the nation's weapons stockpile.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he is deeply concerned about what would happen to Syria's stockpile if the Assad government collapses. He said the Israeli army is preparing to act if Syrian weapons fall into the hands of Hezbollah or other Islamic militants.

Fighting between between rebels and government troops continued Monday in the capital, Damascus, and the northern city of Aleppo as the European Union tightened sanctions against Syria.

EU Sanctions

The European Union has tightened the noose on Syria's government, strengthening an arms embargo, blacklisting nearly 30 people and companies associated with the regime, and banning the Syrian national airline from landing in EU countries.

With the conflict intensifying in Syria, EU foreign ministers moved on two fronts: strengthening sanctions against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and freeing up more humanitarian assistance for Syrians fleeing the violence.

During talks in Brussels, they added more than two dozen names of Syrian people and companies that face EU travel bans and asset freezes. Most of the individuals are military officials.

Syria's national carrier is also banned from landing in EU airports, although it can fly over European countries and make emergency stops.

The ministers also tightened a 2011 EU arms embargo against the Syrian regime. Member states are now required to search suspect planes and ships. Until now, the searches were optional.

More aid

And with a flood of Syrians now fleeing their country, the ministers agreed to earmark another $24 million in aid to Syrian refugees, to an overall total of $76 million. But British Foreign Secretary William Hague says more needs to be done.

"We have to step up our humanitarian assistance for the people fleeing across the borders, to give more practical support to the Syria opposition, including helping them prepare for Syria after Assad, and to encourage other countries outside [the] EU to impose serious and effective sanctions on the Assad regime which we are making some progress in doing," Hague said.

The ministers also discussed possibilities for a post-Assad Syria.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the EU is looking at how to assemble a post-Assad transitional government that will represent all of Syria's diverse population.

Thousands of Syrians have died and tens of thousands have been uprooted since an anti-government uprising began more than a year ago.

Arab demands

Meanwhile, Arab League foreign ministers indicated during a meeting in Qatar Monday, that they hoped Mr. Assad would step down, saving the Syrian people any further suffering.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad ben Jassem ben Jabbar al Thani said that the league was offering President Assad the possibility to leave Syria with his family without threat of prosecution.

But the Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the matter of who governs Syria is "a matter for the Syrian people to decide." He said the Arab League was "aggravating the situation" inside the country.

Lisa Bryant from Paris and Edward Yeranian from Cairo contributed to this report.

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Comment Sorting
by: susu
July 24, 2012 3:36 PM
what's the diffrence.. he already killed 20 thousands people..
Obama cares about chemical weapons more than he cares about Syrian people..
Death is death, chemical weapons does it faster, that's all.

by: Lara
July 24, 2012 7:49 AM
Warned or not,Assad is likely to use them,he'll stop at nothing.

by: Abdull from: Qatar
July 23, 2012 11:27 PM
As early as 26 June 1946, Jawaharlal Nehru, soon to be India's first Prime Minister, announced:

“ As long as the world is constituted as it is where a country bullies another country with attacks, every country will have to devise and use the latest devices for its protection. I have no doubt India will develop her scientific researches and I hope Indian scientists will use the atomic force for constructive purposes. But if India is threatened, she will inevitably try to defend herself by all means at her disposal".

by: Al_Kilo from: USA
July 23, 2012 11:08 PM
Reading the Israeli press, there is a dangerous escalation, with a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities before the US elections.
The current administration seems out of its league.
It is run by a bunch of silver spoon fed hipsters that have no real life experience.
There is a great need for courageous leadership by people with life experience and moral character, not short term politicking a la Hollywood Koni 2012.
Its called taking down Assad ASAP.
It means having a pair and shaming Russians, by expositing their arm shipments, by threatening boycott of the Olympics. But also using a carrot, by negotiating the safeguard of their base.
The Pentagon played a decisive behind the scene role during the early days of the Egyptian Arab spring, because of decade long contacts between the US and Egyptian military. Russians can play a similar role in Syria, to help depose Assad, and create a unified post Assad army, minus the Alawite leadership, that would help maintain peace during the political transition.
This will put pressure on the Iranian theocracy and leverage to keep Israel in check.
Instead, the president has given orders to the State Department to do nothing and follow the lead of the Russians. The Russians, in turn, what Assad to stay.
This dereliction of responsibility will potentially have catasptophic consequences.
Cynics will say that the reason both candidates are staying put, is because they are waiting to be the first to jump on the occasion to wag the dog when and/if Israel starts bombing Iran, to use this for re-election, to help “revive” the US economy by stocking up the US military industry, etc.. A perfect neocon strategy, but a big mistake.

by: cccc from: China
July 23, 2012 10:47 PM
The EU and US will let Syria become another Libya soon whithout using weapons.what they have done is to make people live in the bombing suicide.

by: Carlos from: usa
July 23, 2012 9:30 PM
President Obama is the one who could have stopped the murder 400 days ago .. instead tens of thousand have been murdered and maimed .. I have been to Syrian myself and have never met a better people .. I am disgusted to watch the inaction of the White House ..

President Obama is to blame.. too much a coward to do anything during the re-election .. so he should agree with Romney to come together and make a joint announcement that they both agree that the US should take military action and lead with air power .. John McCain will give them guidance if the President can't figure out what to do ..

President Obama should have acted to stop the murder more than 400 days ago .. by sending in drones for the dictator's palaces in Damascus .. instead President Obama has descended into ignominious cowardice ..

Did the Kremlin wait to get UN approval when they went sent tanks into Georgia in 2008 ? Why is President Obama handcuffed by the Kremlin ? we can only say that it is because he does not want to save the Syrians .. he does not want to send in drones .. he does not want to risk re-election chances and thinks he can shirk his responsibility as leader of the free world ..

Who does President Obama and the West depend on the save the Syrian children ? The same man who the US depended to save the Rwandan and Bosnian children ..

Syrian authorities are systematically detaining and torturing children, the United Nations' human rights chief, Navi Pillay, has told the BBC.

President Obama has allowed this to happen .. he has given free rein to the dictators in Damascus and abandoned the Syrian people .. he said the right things when he lead the charge against Qaddafi .. but has let his re-election rule his moral sense on Syria ..

It is disgraceful cowardice unbecoming of the leader of the home of the brave .. He could have shot back at the Damascus dictators 487 days ago when they started shooting innocent protesters .. He could have sent cruise missiles and drones to attack the palace of the dictator and his tanks and artillery .. He and the other leaders of the West meekly bow to the Kremlin and Chinese dictators .. instead they only strain their intelligence coming up with new words to say how horrible are the Syrian dictators' atrocities ..

March 28, 2011, President Obama said .. "when people were being brutalized in Bosnia in the 1990s, it took the international community more than a year to intervene with air power to protect civilians."

“To brush aside America’s responsibility as a leader and — more profoundly — our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances would have been a betrayal of who we are,” (Except in an election year?)

“Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different,” (Except in an election year?)

2011: “And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action.” 2012: Coward

by: Joseph Zrnchik from: Highland Indiana US
July 23, 2012 7:18 PM
Obama says using chemical weapons would be a terrible mistake. He better believe that direct intervention in Syria with a nation-state's military would be an even bigger mistake. The US, if it were weakened from internal strife, would use chemical weapons if that was needed to prevent the fall of the government. The US needs to butt out. Syria needs to attack Saudi Arabia.

by: Glenn from: UK
July 23, 2012 5:08 PM
Syrian extorting money from their own refugees... what a surprise... hey its Islam... and you thought it was a benign "religion"... satanic verses that is what it is...!!!

by: Stephen Real from: Columbia USA
July 23, 2012 2:59 PM
France and the UK statement on chemical and biological weapons being used and possible reaction is particuliarly concerning because NATO will not hesitate if these weapons start going off on a large scale.
Our friends, the Israelis, have ratched up the rhetoric to a troubling level.

Jordan needs visible and financial support along with Turkey and Lebanon as this Syrian refugee crisis starts to gets out of hand.
A lot of women and children flooding across the border.
The West has deep moral and historical obligations it must fulfill for these refugees.

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