`Iran helped Syria build chemical weapons arsenal`

Earlier this week, Syria warned that it would use chemical weapons "in the event of external aggression”.

Washington: Syria has expanded its chemical weapons arsenal in recent years with help from Iran, and by using front organisations to buy sophisticated equipment, claiming it was for civilian programs, documents and interviews have revealed.

According to the documents, the build-up has taken place despite attempts by the US and other Western countries to block the sale of precursor chemicals and so-called dual-use technology to Damascus, reports the Washington Post.

Recent documents show that the European Union provided USD 14.6 million in technical assistance and equipment, some intended for chemical plants, in a deal with the Syrian Ministry of Industry, which diplomats and arms experts have identified the ministry as a front for the country`s chemical weapons program, the paper said.

Earlier this week, a top Syrian official warned that the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would chemical weapons "in the event of external aggression”.

US officials have expressed concerns over whether Assad would authorise using the weapons against his own people as a last-ditch effort to remain in power. Similarly, officials have said they worry about the security of the arsenal if Assad`s government falls.

The portrait of Syria`s efforts to develop a larger chemical weapons program emerged from EU documents, a handful of little-noticed State Department cables released by WikiLeaks and interviews with outside experts.

Arms experts say Syria has pursued a two-pronged strategy to build and grow its chemical weapons stockpile: overt assistance and procurement of chemical precursors and expertise from Iran, coupled with the acquisition of equipment and chemicals from seemingly unwitting businesses in other countries, in many cases through a network of front organisations, the paper stated.