* U.S. and NATO have warned Syria against chemical weapons
* Syria has not acknowledged it possesses them
* But has said wouldn't use such weapons against own people
* Dy formin Syria days chemical weapons talk is "theatre"
BEIRUT, Dec 6 Syria's deputy foreign minister
said on Thursday he feared Western countries were voicing
concerns over his country's possible use of chemical weapons to
lay the ground for intervention, despite Damascus saying it
would not use them.
Faisal Maqdad said media reports citing U.S. and European
intelligence officials as saying Syria was preparing its
chemical weapons for possible use were "theatre", in an
interview with the Lebanese news channel Al Manar.
Syria has been mired in bloodshed since the start of a
20-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's rule
with his army turning the full force of its artillery and
fighter jets against comparatively lightly armed rebels.
Opposition forces and Western intelligence officials have
said that recent rebel advances - including around the capital
Damascus - may provoke Assad into using chemical weapons, which
he is widely believed to possess.
"Syria stresses again, for a tenth and a hundredth time, if
we had such weapons, they would not be used against its people.
We would not commit suicide," Maqdad said in the interview.
"In the event that (foreign powers) actually considered an
aggression, they should consider the consequences. I believe the
cost will be high ... They need to understand that they are
putting the entire region and its environs to danger if they
tried to commit such a folly."
Syria straddles the fault lines of several ethnic and
regional conflicts in the Middle East, from Turkey's fight with
the Kurds on Syria's northern border, to sectarian tensions in
Iraq in the east. It is also still formally at war with Israel,
Assad blames the West and its Gulf Arab allies, who have
thrown their weight behind the opposition, for the unrest in
Syria that rebel sources say has killed 40,000 people. His
government argues that the uprising is led by "terrorists"
guided from abroad.
If the rebels could not overthrow Assad he said the West
might "resort to radical solutions".
Syria refuses to acknowledge it possesses chemical arms but
has repeatedly said it would not use such weapons on its own
people, though it might against foreign attackers. Israel and
NATO countries say Syria has stocks of various chemical warfare
agents at four sites.
The United States and NATO, which has agreed to send Patriot
missiles to the Turkish border with Syria, have issued strong
warnings to Syria against the use of chemical warfare.
Washington has said that the use of chemical weapons would
be a "red line" for the United States.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday
the United States was worried an "increasingly desperate" Assad
could resort to the use of chemical weapons against rebels, or
lose control of them "to one of the many groups that are now
operating within Syria".
Maqdad said that Syria's foes might give "terrorists"
chemical weapons and then blame use of them on Damascus.
He said that Assad would continue to fight the opposition
despite foreign pressure: "We will not concern ourselves with
this psychological war and we will continue to fight terrorism."