UK has 'evidence' Syria preparing chemical weapons: William Hague

Last Updated: Sun, Dec 09, 2012 11:33 hrs

British Foreign Secretary William Hague has said that he has seen 'some evidence' that Bashar al-Assad's regime is preparing to use chemical weapons against Syrian rebels.

Hague did not give specific details of the intelligence, also seen by the US, but said that it was enough to renew warnings to Assad that his regime would face action if they were deployed.

Speaking to the BBC at a security conference in the Gulf, Hague was asked whether he had seen proof that Syria was preparing such weapons.

"We have seen some evidence of that," he said, adding: "We and the US, as I said in parliament this week, have seen some evidence of that and that is why we have issued strong warnings about it. We have done so directly to the Syrian regime."

"We absolutely cannot be specific about that because clearly those are intelligence sources that these things come from," pressed on what kind of evidence he had seen, Hague replied.

"But we have seen enough evidence to know that they need a warning and they have received that warning," he said.

American satellites and other tools have reportedly detected increased activity at several chemical weapons depots in Syria, the Guardian reports.

The Syrian regime has denied any plans to use chemical weapons against it own people.

According to the report, amid speculation that the regime could be targeted with air strikes, Hague said the use of chemical weapons would be a 'major change in situation'.

The US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, and the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, have also stepped up warnings to Syria over its alleged stockpile of chemical weapons.

"I think there is no question that we remain very concerned," Panetta said.

"Very concerned that as the opposition advances, in particular on Damascus, that the regime might very well consider the use of chemical weapons. The intelligence that we have causes serious concerns that this is being considered," he added.

"The president of the United States has made very clear there will be consequences, there will be consequences if the Assad regime makes a terrible mistake by using these chemical weapons on their own people," Panetta added.

Clinton said Assad would cross "a red line" if he used chemical weapons.

She also said that Washington was concerned 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", the report added. (ANI)

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