Syria threatened Monday to unleash its chemical and biological weapons if the country faces a foreign attack, a desperate warning from a regime that has failed to crush a powerful and strengthening rebellion.
The statement — Syria's first-ever acknowledgment that the country possesses weapons of mass destruction — suggests President Bashar Assad will continue the fight to stay in power, regardless of the cost.
"It would be reprehensible if anybody in Syria is contemplating use of such weapons of mass destruction like chemical weapons," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said during a trip to Belgrade, Serbia. "I sincerely hope the international community will keep an eye on this so that there will be no such things happening."
Syria is believed to have nerve agents as well as mustard gas, Scud missiles capable of delivering these lethal chemicals and a variety of advanced conventional arms, including anti-tank rockets and late-model portable anti-aircraft missiles.
* * *
During a televised news conference Monday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi stressed that the weapons are secure and would only be used in the case of an external attack.
"No chemical or biological weapons will ever be used, and I repeat, will never be used, during the crisis in Syria no matter what the developments inside Syria," he said. "All of these types of weapons are in storage and under security and the direct supervision of the Syrian armed forces and will never be used unless Syria is exposed to external aggression."