MOSCOW, Dec. 13 (UPI) -- There may be "very serious consequences," including the deployment of chemical weapons, should Syria fall into rebel hands, a Russian foreign minister said.
Increasing violence in Damascus has suggested the civil war is taking a new turn after close to two years. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said Thursday the Kremlin was worried that Syria's chemical weapons arsenal could fall into terrorist hands.
"The greatest danger is that parts of Syria continue to fall under the control of the opposition where extremists, terrorists and al-Qaida have strong positions," he was quoted by Russia's state-run news agency RIA Novosti. "That could have very serious consequences."
U.N. and Western leaders have warned Damascus against deployment of chemical weapons.
"Everyone is afraid of that, including our American partners," said Bogdanov.
Washington this week sanctioned a Syrian rebel movement it said was a front for al-Qaida in Iraq. The move comes amid growing support for an opposition council formed last month in Qatar.
Bogdanov this week said he was frustrated with the support of the opposition council because of concerns over their affiliation with Islamic militant groups. He said, however, that it's become obvious that the Syrian government is losing control over the country.
"Sadly, a victory by the Syrian opposition cannot be ruled out," he said.
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