US claims Syria has loaded chemical weapons into bombs
U.S. officials say the Syrian military has loaded active chemical weapons into bombs and is awaiting a final order from President Bashar Assad to use the deadly weapons.
NBC News reports that on Wednesday the Syrian military loaded sarin gas into aerial bombs that could be deployed from dozens of aircraft.
The last large-scale use of sarin was in 1988, when former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's forces killed 5,000 Kurds in a single attack.
However, U.S. officials told NBC that the sarin bombs had not yet been loaded onto planes but added if Assad gives the final order, "there's little the outside world can do to stop it."
The Syrian government has previously insisted that it would not use chemical weapons against its own people.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has as recently as last week warned of the possibility that Assad could use chemical weapons against his own people.
After meeting other NATO foreign ministers in Brussels last week, Clinton told the gathering, "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."
"We have sent an unmistakable message that this would cross a red line and those responsible would be held to account," she said.
At the end of the meeting, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen backed up Clinton's threat, declaring that the international community could take military action against Assad and his forces.
"The possible use of chemical weapons would be completely unacceptable for the whole international community and if anybody resorts to these terrible weapons I would expect an immediate reaction from the international community," Rasmussen told reporters.
Military showdown continues in Syria amid chemical weapon fears
Military showdown around Syria's capital Damascus continued Wednesday as the government troops are trying to push the rebels away from the surroundings of the capital at a time when fears mount about Syria's chemical weapon, local officials said.
Operations by the Syrian army were reported to have continued Wednesday in the eastern and southwestern outskirts of Damascus, such as Daraya and the towns close to the international airport of Damascus, like Bait Sahem and Akraba.
The eastern al-Ghouta area has also been bombarded by the government troops, reports said.
Syrian war jets, meanwhile, have been hovering over the capital in what appeared to be a preparation to hit rebels' strongholds around the capital.
Earlier in the day, the pro-government al-Watan daily said the Syrian army continued its manhunt of armed groups at the surrounding towns of the airport road in Damascus, leaving scores of armed men killed.
The rebels, who are now mixed with foreign jihadists and al- Qaida-linked fighters, have been trying to cut off the road to the airport and wage intensive attacks to bring down the capital, the seat-place of al-Assad.
The Syrian forces, in response, unleashed great firepower to prevent those elements from inching toward the heart of the capital. Sources said that more than 2,000 rebels have been killed over the past week in the airport operations.
As the clashes on ground is gaining momentum day after day in what appeared to be a death match between the conflicting parties, the world's superpowers, like the United States and its allies in the region, have started to bring up the subject of Syria's chemical arsenal and further expressed fears that the Syrian administration might use those weapons in their fights.
Washington warned the Syrian administration not to make the " tragic mistake" of using those weapons.
In response, the Syrian government stressed in a statement that it will not use those weapons, "if it had them," in its fights.
Government officials and observers here believe that the U.S. talks of chemical weapons could be pretext of future intervention.
"The West is looking for an excuse for direct intervention. If this excuse does not work, it will look for another excuse," Syrian Deputy Prime Minister, Qadri Jamil told journalists after meeting with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow recently.
Alongside the chemical weapons issues, NATO has approved the Turkish government's request to deploy Patriot missiles along the Turkish borders with Syria, which is also seen as a part of the new round of international pressure against Syria.
Media reports revealed on Wednesday Russia's intention to provide the Syrian administration with Iskander Missiles in the face of the U.S. Patriots, which highlighted the international powers' division over the Syrian issue.