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France warns Syria not to use chemical weapons

Dec. 4, 2012 4:50 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 4, 2012 4:50 P.M.)
PARIS (Reuters) -- France said Tuesday it was aware the Syrian government was possibly moving chemical weapons on military bases and said foreign powers would be forced to act if it used such arms.

International concerns over Syria's intentions have been heightened by reports its chemical weapons have been moved and could be prepared for use.

"Any use of chemical weapons by (Syrian President) Bashar Assad or officials under his orders would be unacceptable," Deputy Foreign Ministry spokesman Vincent Floreani told reporters.

"The leaders in Damascus must be made aware that the international community is watching them and will not stand by without a reaction if these weapons were to be used."

France, one of Assad's harshest critics, has thus far ruled out sending weapons to rebels fighting Assad's government, concerned they could get into the hands of radical Islamists, but now wants the European Union to review its arms embargo.

France was the first Western nation to officially back the newly created opposition Syrian National Coalition.

"We are aware of the information circulating on the possible movements on military bases storing chemical weapons in Syria," Floreani said. He said Paris was monitoring the situation with its allies.

In a separate statement. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle echoed those comments and called for an immediate end to the violence in Syria and for a power transition to begin.

"I can only warn the Syrian regime that a deployment of chemical weapons would be completely unacceptable. Whoever even contemplates such a step should know that the world would hold him accountable," said Westerwelle.
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