Could Syrian President Bashar Assad be gearing to use chemical weapons on rebel forces? NBC News reported Wednesday that the Syrian military "has loaded the precursor chemicals for sarin, a deadly nerve gas, into aerial bombs."
Citing US intelligence officials, the report said that Assad,
who has been fighting to stay in power since March 2011, is prepared to use chemical weapons against his own people.
is believed to have the largest stockpile of nonconventional weapons
in the world, and according to the report, Damascus' military is now awaiting the president's order to strike rebel forces.
NBC said that "As recently as Tuesday, officials had said there was as yet no evidence that the process of mixing the precursor chemicals had begun. But Wednesday, they said their worst fears had been confirmed: The nerve agents were locked and loaded inside the bombs."
is an highly lethal agent. According to the report, the sarin bombs have not been loaded onto fighter jets as of now, indicating that Assad has yet to give any official order to use them. However, one official told NBC that should the desperate regime decide to use the lethal gas "There's little the outside world can do to stop it."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
reiterated Wednesday the US' warnings to Assad against using chemical weapons, saying he would be crossing "a red line" if he did so.
Clinton said that the Damascus regime was on the brink of collapse, which is raising the prospect that "an increasingly desperate Assad regime might turn to chemical weapons or that the banned weapons could fall into other hands.
"Ultimately, what we should be thinking about is a political transition in Syria and one that should start as soon as possible," Clinton said. "We believe their fall is inevitable. It is just a question of how many people have to die before that occurs."
Fighting in Syria intensified Wednesday in the 21-month civil war. The UN says that over 40,000 people have been killed in the fighting so far. The UN withdrew its personnel from the war-torn country, saying conditions were too dangerous.
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