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Israel tracking Syria chemical weapons situation
by Staff Writers
Jerusalem (AFP) Dec 4, 2012

Lavrov dismisses 'rumours' of Syria chemical arms
Brussels (AFP) Dec 04, 2012 - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned Tuesday that deploying Patriot missiles along Turkey's border with Syria risked pouring more arms into the region, and dismissed fears of Damascus using chemical weapons.

Russia recognised Turkey's right to ask for help from its NATO allies, Lavrov said, but added: "We are concerned that the conflict is being increasingly militarised."

Ankara has formally asked its NATO partners to deploy the US-made anti-missile system after a series of cross-border shellings, including one that left five civilians dead on October 3.

"Any such deployment is creating the risk that these arms will be used," Lavrov told journalists after a meeting of the NATO-Russia council.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Lavrov during the meeting that the decision on the Patriots was likely to come later Tuesday.

Lavrov also sought to dismiss fears that the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad would use chemical weapons, saying it was not the first time there were such "rumours and leaks" and they should "not be overstated."

"Yes there were artillery strikes, but we believe they were not intentional," he said, referring to the cross-border shellings.

Moscow is a staunch ally of Damascus, routinely blocking resolutions against Assad's regime at the UN Security Council, while Ankara's relationship with its neighbour has collapsed over the conflict.

Lavrov said every time Moscow heard reports about Syrian chemical arms "we engage in responsible" steps to verify the information "and we get the reply that nothing is being prepared."

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Monday that deploying US-made Patriot missiles on Turkey's volatile border would exacerbate tensions with Syria.

"Creating additional capabilities on the border does not defuse the situation but on the contrary exacerbates it," Putin told a press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan after talks in Istanbul.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday Israel is closely tracking developments relating to chemical weapons in Syria, whose regime has been warned against using them in the country's uprising.

"Along with the international community, we are closely following developments in Syria related to its chemical weapons stockpiles," Netanyahu said in a statement from his office.

US President Barack Obama on Monday issued Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad a blunt warning not to use chemical weapons against his own people, following US warnings his forces were mixing deadly sarin gas.

"I heard President Obama's important remarks on the subject and we see things the same way," said Netanyahu. "We believe these weapons must not be used and must not fall into the hands of terrorist elements."

Western powers on Tuesday warned there would be an immediate reaction to any use of chemical weapons as the NATO military alliance prepared to approve a Turkish request for Patriot missiles to protect its border with Syria.

Russia, the most powerful of the Assad regime's allies, has dismissed fears of Damascus using chemical weapons and warned that deploying the missiles risked pouring more arms into the region.

Syria itself has insisted it would never such arms against its own people.

More than 41,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The conflict erupted in March 2011 with peaceful democracy protests before transforming into an armed insurgency when the government began a bloody crackdown.

France will take strong stand on chemical arms: FM
Brussels (AFP) Dec 04, 2012 - French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius warned Tuesday that France would take a very strong position in the face of any threat of Syrian chemical weapons use, but said such reports needed to be checked out first.

Reports that Syria had moved stocks of chemical arms in recent days "have not been verified or confirmed," Fabius told journalists after talks with his NATO counterparts.

If there was confirmation of a Syrian chemical weapons threat "that would demand an immediate reaction from the international community," Fabius said.

"France has a very strong position, as do other countries" in NATO, he said just after the alliance agreed to Turkey's request to deploy Patriot missiles along its volatile border with Syria.

A US official told AFP Monday that Syria had begun mixing chemicals that could be used to make sarin, a deadly nerve agent, while CNN reported Damascus could use the gas in a limited artillery attack on advancing rebels.

Washington fears that battlefield advances by rebels could prompt Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to use chemical arms, or that stocks could find their way into the hands of groups hostile to the United States and its allies.

Fabius said the reports "are perhaps to be seen in the light of the fact that the forces of the Assad regime are losing ground. There could be a danger that the regime, feeling it is in danger, could think possibly" of using chemical arms.


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NATO approves Patriot missiles for Turkey
Brussels (AFP) Dec 04, 2012
NATO on Tuesday approved member Turkey's request for Patriot missiles to defend its border against Syria following a series of blunt warnings to Damascus not to use chemical weapons. "NATO has agreed to augment Turkey's air defence capabilities in order to defend the population and territory of Turkey and to contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along the alliance's border," a NATO s ... read more

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