Washington: Hitting out at Syrian regime in his harshest reaction, US President Barack Obama on Monday warned Bashar al-Assad that American forces could move into Syria and act against him if he chooses to deploy his chemical weapons against rebel fighters.
"We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people," Obama said while talking to the reporters at the White House yesterday.
Obama said that using chemical or biological weapons by Damascus would be treated as a "red line" by Washington and would change his calculus significantly and provoke a foreign military intervention.
"We have been very clear to the Assad regime -- but also to other players on the ground -- that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilised," Obama said.
"That would change my calculus; that would change my equation," Obama said.
Obama’s tough comments came on a day when UN observers withdrew from Syria following a fruitless effort to bring back peace in the Arab country.
However, Obama's comments met heavy criticism at the hands of Russia which has warned against any unilateral action on Syria, saying that Moscow and Beijing agree that violations of international law and the United Nations charter are impermissible.
Russia and China have opposed military intervention in Syria and have vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions backed by Western and Arab states that would raise pressure on Damascus to end violence.
Seeking re-election in November, Obama noted that he had refrained "at this point" from ordering US military engagement in Syria. But when he was asked at a White House news conference whether he might deploy forces, for example to secure Syrian chemical and biological weapons, he said his view could change.
Syria last month acknowledged for the first time that it had chemical and biological weapons and said it could use them if foreign countries intervened. The threat drew strong warnings from Washington and its allies, although it is not clear how the Syrian armed forces might use such weapons in urban warfare.
"We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people," Obama told the impromptu news conference on Monday. He acknowledged he was not "absolutely confident" the stockpile was secure.
(With Agency Inputs)
First Published: Tuesday, August 21, 2012, 09:40