Putin and Assad (R370).
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Russia believes Syria has no intention of using its chemical weapons and is able to safeguard them, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reported on Wednesday, citing a unidentified Foreign Ministry official.
report seemed aimed at reassuring the West that Syrian President Bashar
Assad will not use chemical weapons against rebels after US President
Barack Obama threatened "enormous consequences" if Damascus even moved
them in a menacing way.
A "confidential dialogue" with the Syrian
government on the security of the arsenal has convinced Russia that
"the Syrian authorities do not intend to use these weapons and are
capable of keeping them under control themselves," Kommersant
Russian Foreign Ministry declined immediate comment on the report,
which cited the official as saying Russia considered it "entirely
probable" the United States would take military action if it saw a
threat from chemical arms.
Russia vehemently opposes military
intervention in Syria, where Assad has given Moscow its firmest Middle
East foothold in recent years, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned
the West against unilateral action on Tuesday.
and China have vetoed three Western-backed UN Security Council
resolutions that would have raised pressure on Assad to stop bloodshed
that the United Nations says has killed more than 18,000 people since
protests began in March 2011.
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But after a Syrian official
acknowledged last month that the country had chemical weapons and could
use them against external aggressors, Russia says it had told Syria even
the threat to employ the arsenal was unacceptable.
also quoted the Foreign Ministry official as saying the United States
had "firmly warned insurgents not to even come close to chemical weapons
storage sites and production plants" and that "opposition groups are
heeding" those demands.
"This shows that the West can exert very specific influence on Assad's opponents when wants to do so," the official said.
which Western officials say has aggravated the violence in Syria by
shielding Assad from pressure through its Security Council vetoes,
contends that the West is encouraging rebels and must instead press them
to stop fighting.
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
"We're monitoring that situation very carefully. We have
put together a range of contingency plans," Obama said when asked
whether he envisioned the possibility of using US forces at least to
safeguard Syria's chemical arsenal.
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