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Clinton issues new warning to Syria on use of chemical weapons

December 03, 2012|By Paul Richter

WASHINGTON--Amid reports that Syria is shifting its chemical weapons arsenal, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday warned the Syrian government that the United States considers use of such weapons a “red line” that would force it into deeper involvement in the country’s civil war.

“This is a red line for the United States,” Clinton said in an appearance in Prague with the Czech prime minister, Karel Schwarzenberg. While she said she would not “telegraph in any specifics” what the administration would do if the government of embattled President Bashar Assad used the weapons against Syrians, “we are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to occur.”            

She said the issue was “very much on the minds of the administration and like-minded countries around the world.” She said that “there is a line between even the horrors that they have already inflicted on the Syrian people and moving to what would be an internationally condemned step of utilizing their chemical weapons.”

Clinton’s comments echoed President Obama’s public comments in August that use of Syria’s large arsenal of chemical weapons is the one red line that would certainly prompt U.S. intervention. “That would change my calculus,” he said then.

 In recent days, U.S. officials and allies have again seen signs that Syria is shifting some of the chemical weapons stockpile, diplomats said. It is unclear what kind of action the U.S. and others would take to halt use of the weapons, because entering Syria to take control of them would require a huge ground and air operation involving tens of thousands of U.S. troops, analysts say.

The Syrian government may be moving the weapons in preparation for their use, or simply to better protect them from rebel forces that are now striking military bases even on the outskirts of the capital of Damascus.

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