WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama on Monday warned Syrian President Bashar Assad that the use or deployment of chemical or biological weapons in his country's conflict would be a "red line" for the United States as it views Damascus's suppression of the uprising.
Obama made an unscheduled appearance in the White House briefing room Monday and told reporters that the issue of Syria's unconventional weapons was of high concern to both the United States and its close ally, Israel.
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"A red line for us is (if) we see a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around, or being utilized. That would change my calculus," Obama said.
Obama further said that the US would consider the possibility of military involvement in Syria should unconventional weapons come into play in the Syrian civil war.
The use of such weapons of mass destruction, which Syria has, would widen the conflict considerably, he noted.
"It doesn't just include Syria. It would concern allies in the region, including Israel, and it would concern us."
Obama warned Assad and "other players on the ground" that the use or movement of such weapons would be a "red line" would "alter the equation."
Syria's undeclared stockpiles of sarin nerve agent, mustard gas and cyanide are considered the largest in the world.
The US and Israel, as well as other western nation, fear that Assad has begun moving his stockpiles. The growing violence in the country has also sparked concerns that nonconventional weapons may find their way into Hezbollah's hands.
A situation assessment held by the Pentagon in July concluded that Damascus was still in control of its chemical arsenal.
In early August, the Syrian opposition claimed that Assad's forces used "mass-killing thermobaric weapons" on civilians in Aleppo, in northern Syria.
Thermobaric are lethal weapons that explode above a target area with a massive blast and suck air in, leaving a vacuum. When such a weapon is detonated, it produces a blast wave with a significantly longer duration, maximizing damage and casualties.
It is believed that Damascus acquired the weapons from Russia.
AP and Reuters contributed to the report
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