Peres: We will prevent WMD threat from Syria

President tells CNN Israel will do what is necessary to ensure Syria's chemical weapons won't endanger Israeli citizens.

July 23, 2012 20:33
3 minute read.
President Shimon Peres

Shimon Peres 370. (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/GPO)


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Israel will act to ensure that Syria's chemical weapons are not a danger to the Jewish state, President Shimon Peres told CNN on Monday.

"The use of chemical weapons is internationally forbidden," he said.  "What do you do when someone violates the law?  You fight against them.  You stop them."

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Syria said on Monday it could use chemical weapons in response to any "external aggression" but they would not be used in Syrian President Bashar Assad's campaign to crush a 16-month-old uprising against his rule.

"The Syrians must be aware that what they do is against international law and endangering, here, our lives, so we shall not remain indifferent and tell them 'do what you want,'" Peres said.

Asked when Israel would act, Peres obfuscated, saying, "I think Israel is quite experienced in discovering dangers ahead of time, and our eyes are sharp and alert and I'm sure that we shall know ahead of time."

On the topic of Syrian refugees, Peres replied with a blunt "no" when asked if Israel would help Syrians seeking refuge in Israel. "If they want to escape, they first of all have to appeal, ask for permission. None of them did it, I don't anticipate that any of them will do it," the president said.

On Saturday, Amnesty International sent Defense Minister Ehud Barak a letter urging Israel to take "necessary steps" to ensure anyone fleeing Syria be allowed to benefit from effective and systematic protection procedures.

Earlier Monday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague termed Syria's threat to use chemical weapons against foreign intervention "unacceptable."

"This is typical of the complete illusion of this regime, that they are the victims of external aggression," Hague told reporters at a European Union foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels. "What is actually happening is their own people are rising up against a brutal police state ... and in any case it is unacceptable to say that they would use chemical weapons under any circumstances."

Syria's Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi on Monday said any chemical or bacterial weapons were securely stored by the armed forces.

"The ministry wants to re-affirm the stance of the Syrian Arab Republic that any chemical or bacterial weapon will never be used - and I repeat will never be used - during the crisis in Syria regardless of the developments," Makdissi said.

"These weapons are stored and secured by Syrian military forces and under its direct supervision and will never be used unless Syria faces external aggression."

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It appeared to be the first time that Syria acknowledged it might possess non-conventional weapons. Damascus is not a signatory to the 1992 Chemical Weapons Convention that bans their use, production or stockpiling.

Makdissi raised the possibility that "terrorists groups" might be supplied with biological weapons by outside powers which "could be used in one of the villages - God forbid - and then they would accuse the Syrian forces."

He also said the security situation in Damascus, where Assad's forces have been battling rebels for more than a week, was improving and would return to normal within days.

He condemned calls for Assad to step down at a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Qatar over the weekend, calling it a "flagrant intervention" in Syria's internal affairs.

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