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US and allies warn Syria over movement of chemical weapon components

The United States and its allies have warned Syria over the reported movement of components of chemical weapon components inside Syria.

Syria chemical weapons explainedEnlarge
Syrian deputy premier Qadri Jamil looks during a press conference in Moscow on August 21, 2012, with a picture of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the background. Jamil dismissed as mere election politics US President Barack Obama's implicit threat to launch an attack should the regime deploy its chemical weapons stockpile. (ANDREY SMIRNOV/AFP/Getty Images)

The United States and several of its allies have reiterated a warning to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after a senior US intelligence officer suggested that Syria has been moving chemical weapon components in recent days.

According to the Associated Press, while the official doesn't believe that any developments with the weapons are imminent, officials are trying to figure out what the Syrians are doing. Speaking in Prague, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Syria that use of the chemicals was a "red line" for the United States that would prompt action.

"We once again issue a very strong warning to the Assad regime that their behavior is reprehensible, their actions against their own people have been tragic," she said, Fox News reported. "But there is no doubt that there's a line between even the horrors that they've already inflicted on the Syrian people and moving to what would be an internationally condemned step of utilizing their chemical weapons."

In a response on Syrian state television, the government repeated that it “would not use chemical weapons, if it had them, against its own people under any circumstances,” according to Voice of America.

The New York Times cited one European official saying that the warnings were deliberately vague to keep Assad guessing and had also been conveyed through Russia and other intermediaries.

President Barack Obama weighed in on the issue on Monday afternoon, warning Syria that the use of chemical weapons was "totally unacceptable," according to the AP. Obama said that if Assad made the "tragic mistake" of using chemical weapons, there would be consequences. He stopped short of elaborating on those consequences.

This past August, Obama told reporters that evidence that Assad was moving the weapons in a threatening way could prompt direct US intervention.

Though it remains unclear if the activity over the weekend put Syria over the line, one senior American diplomat said on Sunday, “These are desperate times for Assad, and this may simply be another sign of desperation."

More from GlobalPost: Parsing Obama's comments on Syria and chemical weapons (Q&A)

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/121203/us-and-allies-warn-syria-over-movement-chemical-weapo