* Syria says West whipping up fears over chemical weapons
* Germany approves sending Patriot batteries to Turkey
* Damascus says will not use chemical weapons on own people
* Syria cannot do its job properly - Russian lawmaker
By Erika Solomon
BEIRUT, Dec 6 Western powers are whipping up
fears of a fateful move to the use of chemical weapons in
Syria's civil war as a "pretext for intervention", President
Bashar al-Assad's deputy foreign minister said on Thursday.
He spoke as Germany's cabinet approved stationing Patriot
anti-missile batteries on Turkey's border with Syria, a step
requiring deployment of NATO troops that Syria fears could
permit imposition of a no-fly zone over its territory.
"Syria stresses again, for the tenth, the hundredth time,
that if we had such weapons, they would not be used against its
people. We would not commit suicide," Faisal Maqdad said.
U.S. President Barack Obama and other NATO leaders have
warned that using chemical weapons would cross a red line and
have consequences, which they have not specified.
Assad would probably lose vital diplomatic support from
Russia and China that has blocked military intervention in the
20-month-old uprising that has clamed more than 40,000 lives.
A senior Russian lawmaker and ally of President Vladimir
Putin said Syria's government is incapable of doing its job
properly, a sign that Moscow may already be trying to distance
itself from Assad.
"We have shared and do share the opinion that the existing
government in Syria should carry out its functions. But time has
shown that this task is beyond its strength," Vladimir Vasilyev,
who heads President Putin's party group in the State Duma lower
house, was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
Syria's Maqdad said Western reports the Syrian military was
preparing chemical weapons for use against rebel forces trying
to close in on the capital Damascus were simply "theatre".
"In fact, we fear a conspiracy ... by the United States and
some European states, which might have supplied such weapons to
terrorist organisations in Syria, in order to claim later that
Syria is the one that used these weapons," he said on Lebanon's
Al Manar television, the voice of Hezbollah.
"We fear there is a conspiracy to provide a pretext for any
subsequent interventions in Syria by these countries that are
increasing pressure on Syria."
Exactly what Syria's army has done with suspected chemical
weapons to prompt a surge of Western warnings is not clear.
Reports citing Western intelligence and defence sources are
vague and inconsistent.
The perceived threat may be discussed in Dublin on Thursday
when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton meet international Syria mediator
Lakhdar Brahimi to try to put a U.N. peace process for Syria
back on track.
The talks come ahead of a meeting of the Western-backed
"Friends of Syria" group in Marrakech next week which is
expected to boost support for rebels fighting to overthrow
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Brahimi wants world powers to issue a U.N. Security Council
resolution calling for a transitional administration.
In addition to the possible use of chemical bombs by "an
increasingly desperate" Assad, Clinton said Washington was
concerned about the government losing control of such weapons to
extreme Islamist armed groups among the rebel forces.
U.S. officials said Washington was considering blacklisting
Jabhat al-Nusra, an influential rebel group accused by other
rebels of indiscriminate tactics that has advocated an Islamic
state in Syria and is suspected of ties to al Qaeda.
An explosion in front of the Damascus headquarters of the
Syrian Arab Red Crescent killed at least one person on Thursday,
Syrian state television said.
It blamed "terrorists from al Qaeda" -- a term often
employed to refer to rebel forces.
Meanwhile, activists said the army pummelled several eastern
suburbs of Damascus, where the rebels are dominant, with
artillery and mortar fire. The suburbs have also been cut off
from the city's water and electricity for weeks, rebels say,
accusing the government of collective punishment.
Rebels say they have surrounded an air base 4 km (2-1/2
mikes) from the centre of Damascus, a fresh sign the battle is
closing in on the Syrian capital.
They also said they were battling soldiers on the road to
Damascus International Airport, 20 km (12 miles) out of the
capital where several airlines have cancelled flights due to
Maqdad, in his interview on Thursday, argued that reports of
such advances were untrue: "What is sad is that foreign
countries believe these repeated rumours."
But residents inside the capital say the sound of shelling
on the outskirts has become a constant backdrop and many fear
the fight will soon come to Damascus.
The Western military alliance's decision to send U.S.,
German and Dutch Patriot missile batteries to help defend the
Turkish border would bring European and U.S. troops to Syria's
frontier for the first time in the civil war.
The actual deployment could take several weeks.
"Some countries now are now supplying Turkey with missiles
for which there is no excuse. Syria is not going to attack the
Turkish people," Maqdad said.
But a veteran Turkish commentator, Cengiz Candar of the
Radikal newspaper, said Ankara fears Syria's 500 short-range
ballistic missiles could fall into the wrong hands.
The government is "of the view that Syria was not expected
to use them against Turkey, but that there was a risk of these
weapons falling into the hands of 'uncontrolled forces' when the
regime collapses", he wrote.