By David Brunnstrom
BRUSSELS Dec 5 The United States is worried
that an increasingly desperate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad
could resort to the use of chemical weapons against rebels, or
lose control of them, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
said on Wednesday.
After a meeting of NATO foreign ministers at which the
Western military alliance agreed to send Patriot anti-missile
batteries to Syria's neighbour, Turkey, Clinton said Washington
had made clear to Syria that use of chemical arms would be a
"red line" for the United States.
"Our concerns are that an increasingly desperate Assad
regime might turn to chemical weapons, or might lose control of
them to one of the many groups that are now operating within
Syria," Clinton told a news conference.
"And so as part of the absolute unity that we all have on
this issue we have sent an unmistakable message that this would
cross a red line and those responsible would be held to
Saying a political transition in Syria needed to start as
soon as possible, Clinton said the United States would do what
it could to support Assad's adversaries, now that a new
opposition coalition has been formed.
The United States and other countries will discuss at a
meeting of the Friends of Syria group in Marrakesh, Morocco next
week what more they could do to try to bring the Syrian conflict
to an end, she said.
"But that will require the Assad regime making the decision
to participate in a political transition (and) ending the
violence against its own people ... We hope that they do so
because we believe ... that their fall is inevitable. It is just
a question of how many people will die until that date occurs."
The National Coalition for Syrian Opposition and
Revolutionary Forces was set up earlier this month in an attempt
to unify Assad's fractured opponents and win greater
international support, and possibly arms.
While the coalition has won formal recognition from Turkey,
France, Britain and Gulf Arab states, the United States has so
far stopped short of this step.
Other nations will be watching carefully to see whether
Washington will throw its full support behind the coalition by
recognising it as "the" representative of the Syrian people, a
step that might open the way for greater aid flows.
Clinton said that with the new coalition, the United States
was "going to be doing what we can to support that opposition".
The West has been wary in dealing with the Syrian opposition
in exile due to concerns that some groups lack support on the
ground in Syria and worries about Islamic radicals in the rebel