United States- US President Barack Obama warned President Assad against using chemical weapons. "The world is watching," Obama said on Monday.
"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.
"Today I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command: The world is watching," Obama said. "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."
While there has been intense fighting on the ground, particularly in Damascus, in the past few days, there is also growing international concern that the Syrian regime is contemplating using chemical weapons.
US and allied intelligence has also detected Syrian movement of chemical weapons components in recent days, a senior US defence official told the Associated Press. The source said intelligence officials had detected activity around more than one of Syria's chemical weapons sites in the last week.
However, Syria's foreign ministry stressed that it would not use chemical weapons against its own people. Syria on Monday denied it planned to use its chemical weapons stockpile, after reports that the US had observed officials moving some components of the program. "Syria has stressed repeatedly that it will not use these types of weapons, if they were available, under any circumstances against its people," the foreign ministry said.
The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, who had warned that Washington would take action if Syria used chemical weapons, said: "I am not going to telegraph any specifics what we do in the event of credible evidence that the Assad regime has resorted to using chemical weapons against their own people, but suffice to say we are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to occur."
Clinton, in Prague for meetings with Czech officials, said she wouldn't outline any specifics.
"But suffice it to say, we are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to occur," Clinton said.
Late on Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney echoed Clinton's words. "We are concerned that in an increasingly beleaguered regime, having found its escalation of violence through conventional means inadequate might be considering the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people," he said. "And as the president has said, any use or proliferation of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime would cross a red line for the United States."
The warnings to Syria come after US intelligence detected signs the Syrian regime was moving the chemical weapons components around within several of Syria's chemical weapons sites in recent days, according to a senior US defense official and two US officials speaking on Monday. The activities involved movement within the sites, rather than the transfer of components in or out of various sites, two of the officials said.
But they were activities they had not seen before, that bear further scrutiny, one said.
U.S. officials are concerned that with fighting closing in on Syria's capital of Damascus, the government may be toying with the idea of using chemical weapons to crush the 21-month rebellion.
Another senior US official described it as "indications of preparations" for a possible use of the chemical weapons. The US still doesn't know whether the regime is planning to use them, but the official says there is greater concern because there is the sense that the Assad regime is under greater pressure now.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about intelligence matters.
The US administration remains reluctant to dispatch US forces into Syria, but a US special operations training team is in neighboring Jordan, teaching troops there how to safely secure such sites together with other troops from the region, the US officials said.