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
    x
    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.

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    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. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-175411...

    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." www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/2011/03/28/president-obama-s-speech-libya

    “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.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora