DAMASCUS - Syria admitted on Monday it possesses chemical weapons and warned it would use them if attacked though not against its own civilians, as regime troops battled rebels in Damascus and Aleppo.
“Syria will not use any chemical or other unconventional weapons against its civilians, and will only use them in case of external aggression,” Makdissi told a news conference.
“Any stocks of chemical weapons that may exist, will never, ever be used against the Syrian people,” he said, adding that in the event of foreign attack, “the generals will be deciding when and how we use them.”
Makdissi stressed later in an email that Syria would “never use chemical and biological weapons during the crisis... and that such weapons, if they exist, it is natural for them to be stored and secured.”
Kassem Saadeddine, spokesman for the joint command of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA), said Makdissi’s remarks gave cause for concern.
“The regime admits having chemical weapons, and as it has not signed any treaties. That proves that it will not hesitate to use them,” Saadeddine told AFP.
Makdissi’s comments come a day after the United States said it would “hold accountable” any Syrian official involved in the release or use of the country’s chemical weapons.
The ministry spokesman also said Syria firmly rejected a demand by the Arab League that Assad step down.
“We are sorry that the Arab League has descended to this level concerning a member state of this institution,” he said.
“This decision only concerns the Syrian people, who are the sole masters of the fate of their governments.”
“If the Arab nations who met in Doha were honest about wanting to stop the bloodshed they would have stopped supplying arms... they would stop their instigation and propaganda,” Makdissi said. “All their statements are hypocritical.” A meeting late Sunday in Doha of Arab League foreign ministers issued a statement calling on Assad to “renounce power,” promising he and his family would be offered “a safe exit.”
“There is agreement on the need for the rapid resignation of President Bashar al-Assad,” Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani said after the meeting.
The Arab League also urged the rebel Free Syrian Army to form a transitional government of national unity.
“We call on the opposition and the Free Syrian Army to form a government of national unity,” Sheikh Hamad said as he delivered the results of the Arab League meeting.
He urged Assad to take the “courageous” decision in order to save his country where fierce fighting continued to rage between government troops and rebels.
Makdissi also vowed Syrian forces would soon regain control of several border posts that rebel forces seized along the frontier with Iraq and Turkey.
The rebels “will not hold onto them and they will be gone in a few days,” he said.