Republican US presidential candidate Mitt Romney suggested Friday that he would be prepared to send ground troops into Syria in order to secure loose chemical weapons.
Speaking to CBS News, Romney said, "I think we have to also be ready to take whatever action is necessary to assure that we do not have any kind of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands terrorists. And whether that requires troops or whether that requires other action by our friends and allies there -- Turkey is very involved, Saudi Arabia is -- but of course, we have to retain the option to protect ourselves and our friends from weapons of mass destruction."
Romney's comments came after US President Barack Obama warned earlier this week
that if Syrian President Bashar Assad were to use his chemical weapons or move them in a threatening manner it would constitute "a red line."
Syria last month acknowledged for the first time that it had chemical and biological weapons and said it could use them if foreign countries intervene -- a threat that drew strong warnings from Washington and its allies.
Western countries and Israel have expressed fears chemical weapons could fall into the hands of militant groups as Assad's authority erodes.Israel has said
that if Syrian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas used the situation to take control of the weapons, it would "act immediately and with utmost force."
When addressing the threat of Syria's chemical weapons on Friday, Romney stated that "there's a wide array of potential threats, but clearly the concern would be that some terrorist group -- whether Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaida or others -- would receive the capacity to carry out a mass destruction, mass death event, and therefore, America has to be ready whether it's there or anywhere else in the world."
Romney also addressed the prospect of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons in the CBS interview, reiterating his stance
that he would be prepared to initiate US military action in order to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.
"We certainly have to maintain all options that we have. But Iran becoming nuclear and potentially providing fissile material to Hezbollah or other of the groups that are associated with that nation, the potential of those groups bringing that fissile material to our continent even to the United States, that's unacceptable. No question in my view that we can put all matter of pressure upon the regime that's there, but they have to also know that a military option is one which we would be willing to consider if they do not take action to dissuade a course towards nuclearization."
Reuters contributed to this report.