* Chemical weapons use would have "huge consequences"-Ban
* U.S. has said their use would cross a "red line"
* Ban says aid for refugees not enough, urges more help
* Calls on U.N. Security Council to unite
By Hamdi Istanbullu
ISLAHIYE, Turkey, Dec 7 U.N. Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon said on Friday he had not received any confirmed
reports that Damascus was preparing to use chemical weapons, but
said it would be an "outrageous crime" if it did so.
Several Western countries have this week warned President
Bashar al-Assad's government not to resort to chemical arms,
with many citing intelligence which Washington said showed Assad
might be preparing to use poisonous gas.
Damascus has said it would never use chemical weapons
against its own people, saying the reports were designed to whip
up support for international intervention in Syria. Washington
has said the use of chemical weapons would cross a "red line".
"Recently, we have been receiving alarming news that the
Syrian government may be preparing to use chemical weapons. We
have no confirmed reports on this matter," U.N. chief Ban said
after visiting a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey.
"However, if it is the case, then it will be an outrageous
crime in the name of humanity ... I know that many world leaders
have added their voices urging him not to use it and warning him
that it will create huge consequences," he said.
Ban's comments came as rebels fighting to topple Assad
declared Damascus International Airport a battle zone on Friday,
while Moscow and Washington both sounded glum about the
prospects of a diplomatic push to end the conflict.
Ban, who has warned Assad twice over chemical weapons use in
writing, said he had also spoken on Thursday with the head of
the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons about
ways to investigate the reports but no concrete plan had
Opposition forces and Western intelligence officials have
said recent rebel advances - including around the capital
Damascus - may provoke Assad into using chemical weapons, which
he is widely believed to possess.
Assad blames the West and its Gulf Arab allies, who have
thrown their weight behind the opposition, for the unrest in
Syria that rebels say has killed 40,000 people. Damascus says
the uprising is led by "terrorists" guided from abroad.
"SLOW INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE"
Ban, who has been visiting camps for Syrian refugees in the
region this week, also hit out at the slow international
response to the growing refugee crisis, urging donors to
increase their assistance with winter fast approaching.
"We have seen a tripling of refugee numbers since July and
the numbers keep growing. I am afraid that any signs of
escalating violence in Syria will lead to a significant increase
in refugee numbers," Ban said.
"Unfortunately, international assistance is simply not
keeping up with the needs. I call on all members, especially
countries in and around the region, near the region, to ramp up
More than 465,000 Syrians have already registered as
refugees in countries neighbouring Syria, the U.N. refugee
agency says, and Ban warned last week that figure could surge to
more than 700,000 by next month. Tens of thousands of
unregistered Syrians have also fled to the region.
Host countries, including Turkey and Jordan, have expressed
concern over their ability to cope with the influx of people and
have also complained about the slow international response.
While Turkey has built several container "cities" to house
the refugees, most of the Syrians in Turkey and other countries
are sheltering in tented camps enduring temperatures now
hovering around freezing.
At the Zaatari camp in Jordan which Ban visited earlier on
Friday, many of the 30,000 refugees complained of inadequate
heating and of a shortage of clothing and blankets. Complaints
at the often overcrowded camps frequently erupt into protests.
Ban also called on world powers and the U.N. Security
Council to unite and take action to end the Syrian conflict,
saying a military approach was a "dead-end" and that only a
political solution could stop the bloodshed.
He said the international community had not yet started to
discuss the possibility of arranging safe passage for Assad and
his family out of Syria should he be persuaded to leave.