Obama: Syria to be accountable for any use of chemical arms

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JERUSALEM—US President Barack Obama on Wednesday warned the Damascus regime it would be held accountable for any use of chemical weapons against civilians in Syria in a move that would spark an international response.

Speaking at a news conference in Jerusalem, Obama said the use of chemical agents against the Syrian people would be a “grave and tragic mistake” and a “game-changer.”

“The Assad regime must understand they will be held accountable,” he said.

His remarks came a day after the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad traded accusations with rebel forces over the use of chemical weapons in a deadly attack in the northern province of Aleppo on Tuesday that killed 31 people.

On Tuesday, Damascus accused rebel forces of launching a missile “containing chemical materials,” with its allies Russia and Iran condemning opposition forces over the alleged attack.

Opposition forces denied using chemical weapons, instead accusing the regime of having itself used the banned munitions.

But Obama said he was highly doubtful about claims the rebels had used chemical agents.

“I am deeply skeptical of any claim that in fact it was the opposition that used chemical weapons,” he said.

Earlier on Wednesday, during a joint news conference in Jerusalem with Obama, Israeli President Shimon Peres warned against chemical arms falling into the wrong hands.

“Fortunately the Syrian nuclear capacity was destroyed but unfortunately the arsenal of chemical weapons remains. We cannot allow those weapons to fall into terrorists’ hands—it could lead to an epic tragedy,” Peres said.

Washington said there was no evidence that rebels had fired chemical weapons, but said it would consult its allies on claims that the regime had used them.

Israel has consistently raised the alarm over Damascus’s stockpiles of chemical weapons, raising fears they could fall into the hands of Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia or other radical militant groups operating in Syria.

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