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'Terrorists' must not get Syria chemical arms: Peres

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons must not be allowed to fall into the hands of terrorist groups, Israeli President Shimon Peres said on Wednesday at a joint news conference with US President Barack Obama.

"Fortunately the Syrian nuclear capacity was destroyed but unfortunately the arsenal of chemical weapons remain. We cannot allow those weapons to fall into terrorists' hands -- it could lead to an epic tragedy," he said in a live statement broadcast on television.

His remarks came a day after the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad traded accusations with rebel forces over the use of chemical weapons in a deadly attack in the northern province of Aleppo on Tuesday which killed 31 people.

On Tuesday, Damascus accused rebel forces of launching a missile "containing chemical materials," with its allies Russia and Iran condemning opposition forces over the alleged attack.

But opposition forces denied firing chemical weapons, instead accusing the regime of having itself used the banned munitions.

Washington said there was no evidence that rebels had fired chemical weapons, but said it would consult its allies on claims that the regime had used them.

Earlier on Wednesday, Israel's new minister of intelligence Yuval Steinitz said that claims that chemical weapons had been used appeared to be true, but said it was not clear which side was responsible.

"It's clear that chemical weapons have been used against civilians by the rebels or by the government," he told Israel's army radio, saying it was "very worrying" for Israel.

Israel has consistently raised the alarm over Damascus's stockpiles of chemical weapons, raising fears they could fall into the hands of Lebanon's Hezbollah militia or other radical militant groups operating in Syria.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130320/terrorists-must-not-get-syria-chemical-arms-peres