Russia warns Syria not to use chemical weapons

MOSCOW Tue Jul 24, 2012 12:15pm EDT

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia warned Syria on Tuesday not to use chemical weapons and said it assumed its ally would adhere to its international obligations.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Syria in 1968 had ratified a 1925 international protocol that bars the use of poison gases as a method of warfare.

"The Russian side proceeds from the assumption that Syrian authorities will continue to strictly adhere to the undertaken international obligations," it said in a statement.

Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi acknowledged on Monday that the country had chemical weapons, saying it would not use them to crush rebels but could use them against forces from outside the country.

Russia has blunted Western and Arab efforts to push Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power but sometimes has criticized his handling of a 16-month uprising in which activists say at least 18,000 people have been killed.

Damascus has not signed a 1992 international convention that bans the use, production or stockpiling of chemical weapons, but officials in the past had denied it had any stockpiles.

(Reporting by Steve Gutterman and Nastassia Astrasheuskaya; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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