WASHINGTON, Dec 3 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama issued
a warning to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Monday not to
use chemical weapons against Syrian opposition forces, saying
there would be consequences if he were to do so.
"I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under
his command: The world is watching," Obama said in a speech to a
gathering of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons
"The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally
unacceptable and if you make the tragic mistake of using these
weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held
accountable," Obama said.
He did not say how the United States might respond, but
White House spokesman Jay Carney said earlier that "contingency
planning" was under way when asked whether the use of military
force was an option.
It was unclear what has motivated U.S. officials to think
that Syria might be on the verge of using chemical weapons.
An American official said the United States is concerned
that Syria may be preparing to combine the chemicals needed to
make sarin gas.
As Assad's government has shown signs of increasing strain
in response to recent advances made by the rebels, Carney said
the United States has grown concerned that the Syrian president
might be considering the use of chemical weapons.
This would, Carney said, "cross a red line for the United
Some U.S. Republicans have been critical of the Obama
administration's response to the Syrian crisis as thousands of
people have been killed during the country's civil war.
During the presidential campaign, Obama's Republican
challenger, Mitt Romney, said the United States should
facilitate the arming of Syrian rebels, a step Obama has not
Obama said in his speech on Monday that the United States
would continue to support the legitimate aspirations of the
Syrian people, engaging with the opposition and providing them
with humanitarian aid. He said his goal is a transition in Syria
to a country that is free of Assad.