KUWAIT - United States intelligence agencies have detected no new moves by the Syrian government in recent days that would indicate it was preparing to use chemical weapons against rebel forces, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Tuesday.

Several Western countries issued coordinated warnings last week to President Bashar Assad not to deploy chemical weapons, many citing secret intelligence that US officials have said his government might be preparing to use poison gas.

Syria has rejected the warnings as "a pretext for intervention" by outsiders.

"At this point, the intelligence has really kind of leveled off. We haven't seen anything new indicating any aggressive steps to move forward in that way," Panetta said, speaking to reporters before arriving on a visit to Kuwait.

Panetta was outspoken about his concerns last week that Assad's government was considering using chemical weapons as rebels intensified their push, particularly on Damascus.

He said on Tuesday he still held those concerns. "I'd like to believe he's got the message. We've made it pretty clear and others have as well," he said.

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