Report: Assad Used Non-Lethal Chemicals on Rebels
Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces used non-lethal chemical weapons against rebels in Homs in late December, the French daily Le Monde reported on Saturday. The report cited intelligence service sources.
According to the Western intelligence sources, who were not named, the weapons were used in four rockets fired on December 23.
Le Monde quoted French Foreign Ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot as having said that the matter had been investigated but that the checks did not produce evidence.
“We checked this out, closely, and notably the videos that were circulating. We cannot say that combat gas or any lethal chemical products were deployed,” Le Monde quoted Lalliot as having said.
Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, which dates back to the 1970s, is the biggest in the Middle East, but its precise scope remains unclear, according to analysts.
U.S. officials recently said there was evidence that Assad's troops had not only moved deadly sarin gas that might be used against rebels, but also that its binary components, usually stored separately, had been combined and placed into bombs for use.
The United States and its allies, including Israel, have repeatedly expressed concern that Syria's stockpile could be stolen and fall into extremist hands or be transferred to the Hizbullah terror group by a crumbling Syrian regime.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently said that the United States is increasingly focused on how to secure Syria's chemical weapons if President Bashar al-Assad falls from power.
Panetta said he would not consider sending ground troops into the war-torn country, even to secure chemical sites, but he left the door open to some U.S. military presence if Assad's downfall is followed by a peaceful transition.
Last week, the United States brushed aside a report of a leaked State Department cable indicating that Syria had used chemical weapons in its brutal crackdown on a nearly two-year-old rebellion.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said there was no evidence that Syria had taken new steps towards using chemical weapons.
"The reporting we have seen from media sources regarding alleged chemical weapons incidents in Syria has not been consistent with what we believe to be true about the Syrian chemical weapons program," he said.