WASHINGTON Dec 6 The United States has seen
intelligence raising serious concerns that President Bashar
al-Assad's government is considering using chemical weapons,
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Thursday without
elaborating on the nature of that intelligence.
"I think there is no question that we remain very concerned,
very concerned that as the opposition advances - in particular
on Damascus - that the regime might very well consider the use
of chemical weapons," Panetta told reporters in Washington.
"The intelligence that we have raises serious concerns that
this is being considered."
Several Western countries have issued coordinated warnings
this week to Assad's government not to use chemical weapons,
many citing secret intelligence that U.S. officials have said
showed Assad's government might be preparing to use poison gas.
U.S. President Barack Obama has warned of consequences
should Assad use the weapons, with the White House citing
"contingency planning" when asked about the possibility of
Panetta restated Obama's warning of consequences for Assad
on Thursday, adding: "I'm not going to speculate or comment on
what those potential consequences would be."
"But I think it's fair enough to say that their use of those
weapons would cross a red line for us," he said.