MOSCOW - Russia has told the Syrian government clearly that it is
unacceptable to threaten to use chemical weapons, the Russian Foreign
Ministry said on Wednesday in its strongest condemnation of a recent
warning by a Syrian official.
In a meeting with Syria's
ambassador to Moscow, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov "laid out
in an extremely clear form Russia's position on the inadmissibility of
any threats of the use of chemical weapons", the ministry said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi acknowledged on Monday that
country had chemical weapons, saying it would not use them to crush
rebels but could use them against forces from outside Syria.
Earlier Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the United
States of justifying terrorism against the Syrian
government and berated Western nations he said had not condemned attacks
that killed top members of Syrian President Bashar Assad's inner
Referring to what he said were comments by US State
Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland indicating such attacks were not
surprising given the Syrian government's conduct, Lavrov said, "This is a
direct justification of terrorism."
Meanwhile, the Syrian army
turned its forces on Aleppo on Wednesday, ordering an armored column to
advance on the country's second biggest city and pounding rebel fighters
there with artillery and attack helicopters, opposition activists said.
hostilities intensified near the Turkish border, Turkey said it was
closing its crossing posts, although the United Nations said refugees
fleeing Syria would be allowed through.
Two top Syrian diplomats,
in the United Arab Emirates and Cyprus, have deserted their posts,
becoming the latest officials to abandon the Damascus government, rebels
16-month revolt against Syrian President Bashar Assad has been transformed
from an insurgency in remote provinces into a battle for control of the
two main cities, Aleppo and the capital, Damascus, where fighting
exploded last week.
Assad's forces have launched massive counter
assaults in both cities. They appear to have beaten rebels back from
neighborhoods in the capital and are turning towards Aleppo, a
commercial hub in the north.
Syrian forces fired artillery and
rockets on Wednesday at the northern Damascus suburb of al-Tel in an
attempt to seize it from rebels, causing panic and forcing hundreds of
families to flee, residents and opposition activists said.
216th mechanized battalion headquartered near Tel started bombarding the
town of about 100,000 people before dawn and initial reports indicated
residential apartment blocks were being hit, they said.
helicopters are flying now over the town. People were awakened by the
sound of explosions and are running away," Rafe Alam, one of the
activists, said by phone from a hill overlooking Tel. "Electricity and
telephones have been cut off."
Opposition sources also reported
helicopters and machine-guns were firing on the neighborhood of Hajar
al-Aswad. The slum lies on the southern outskirts of the capital and has
been a haven for rebels sneaking into Damascus from the suburbs.