Chinese state media have hit out at US President Barack Obama, accusing him of planning to use Syria's possession of chemical weapons as an excuse for intervening militarily in the conflict.
The BBC reported the state news agency, Xinhua, was responding to a warning from Obama that Syria would be crossing a "red line" if the US saw evidence of chemical weapons being moved or used.
"Once again, Western powers are digging deep for excuses to intervene militarily," Xinhua said.
China Daily wrote that such "red line" threats "seem to have almost become a signal for the United States and some of its Western allies to sharpen their weapons before exercising interventionism."
"The world should stay vigilant that these dangerously irresponsible remarks would do nothing but effectively escalate the current bloody situation in Syria and gravely tarnish the prospects of settling Syria's 17-month-old crisis through political means," it said.
Obama's comments provoked similar reactions from Syria and Russia. Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil said yesterday that the West was seeking an excuse to intervene, likening the focus on Syria's chemical weapons with the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which was based on suspicions that Saddam Hussein was concealing weapons of mass destruction.
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Syria last month acknowledged for the first time that it had chemical or biological weapons and said it could use them if foreign countries attacked it.
"We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people," Obama said at the time.
Reuters reported the United Nations says more than 18,000 people have been killed in a war which is affecting neighbouring states.
Russia and China have opposed military intervention in Syria throughout the conflict.