Worries grow about Syria's WMD stockpiles

July 16, 2012 at 9:30 AM
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DAMASCUS, Syria, July 16 (UPI) -- Questions have been raised on how worried countries should be about Syria's chemical and biological weapons stockpiles as fighting intensifies, observers say.

Syria did not sign the international Chemical Weapons Convention and never declared what its stocks might be, but concerns picked up last week after the United States said President Bashar Assad's regime began moving its chemical weapons stock, the Financial Times reported.

The reason for the move wasn't clear, analysts said.

Nine years after the United States and Britain erroneously claimed Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, more claims about WMDs in Arab states likely will undergo tougher scrutiny, the Times said.

Independent experts said, however, the Soviet Union helped Syria in the 1980s develop a chemical weapons arsenal as a countermeasure against Israel, the Times said. Intelligence agencies say they now think Assad has one of the largest chemical weapons stockpiles -- including mustard gas, and nerve agents VX and sarin -- in the world.

The Times said Western leaders have three concerns. The first is the Assad regime might use chemical weapons against the rebels, which carries the risk of uniting the international community behind the need for military intervention.

The second is that the Assad regime loses its hold on the weapons and they fall into the wrong hands, such as Hezbollah.

The third worry is that a chemical or biological weapons storage facility could be hit because of the intensified fighting between government forces and rebels. Syria is thought to have five manufacturing plants and at least 20 storage sites.

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