"Desperate" Assad could resort to chemical weapons - Clinton

BRUSSELS Wed Dec 5, 2012 8:36pm IST

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses a news conference during a NATO foreign ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels December 5, 2012. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addresses a news conference during a NATO foreign ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels December 5, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The United States is worried that an increasingly desperate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could resort to the use of chemical weapons, or lose control of them, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday.

After a meeting of NATO foreign ministers at which the Western military alliance agreed to send Patriot anti-missile batteries to Syria's neighbour, Turkey, Clinton said Washington had made clear to Syria that use of chemical weapons would be a "red line" for the United States.

"Our concerns are that an increasingly desperate Assad regime might turn to chemical weapons, or might lose control of them to one of the many groups that are now operating within Syria," Clinton told a news conference.

"And so as part of the absolute unity that we all have on this issue we have sent an unmistakable message that this would cross a red line and those responsible would be held to account."

Saying a political transition in Syria needed to start as soon as possible, Clinton said the United States would do what it could to support the Syrian opposition, now that a new opposition coalition has been formed.

The United States and other countries would discuss at a meeting of the Friends of Syria group in Marrakech next week what more they could do to try to bring the Syrian conflict to an end, she said.

"But that will require the Assad regime making the decision to participate in a political transition (and) ending the violence against its own people ... We hope that they do so because we believe ... that their fall is inevitable. It is just a question of how many people will die until that date occurs," she said.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Adrian Croft)

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