Mattis Warns Syria Not to Use Chemical Weapons

Mattis Warns Syria Not to Use Chemical Weapons

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the US has no evidence that the Syrian government has used the deadly chemical sarin on its citizens despite reports from aid groups and others in the country.

Last April, the US launched several dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles at a Syrian air base in response to what it called illegal Syrian use of chemical weapons.

A USA official said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces may be developing new types of chemical weapons, which could reach as far as the U.S. unless the global community steps up its pressure on Assad's regime.

On Friday, Mattis said it was clear Syria has weaponized chlorine, but added that he doesn't have evidence of sarin use. They also say it's "likely" Syria has kept a secret stockpile of chemical weapons, even after it agreed to destroy the stash in 2013.

"We have other reports from the battlefield from people who claim it's been used", Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon.

The State Department said Thursday that the USA was "extremely concerned" over reports of another chemical attack in the opposition-controlled region of Damascus.

Former US ambassador to Turkey and Washington Institute fellow James Jeffrey told BI that there have been persistent reports of chlorine attacks in Syria since 2013, and it's not as clearly banned by global agreements as sarin.

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Syria agreed to destroy its chemical weapons in 2013 under a deal brokered by Russian Federation and the United States.

Rescue workers and medical groups working in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta, near Damascus, have accused government forces of using chlorine gas three times over the last month, including early on Thursday.

President Donald Trump "hasn't excluded anything" in the bid to halt the program, a senior U.S. official told AFP.

There were no indications that the Syrian government, after seven years of civil war, had developed new, deadlier chemicals.

The statement comes in the wake of suspected sarin and chlorine attacks - including one unconfirmed attack in the rebel-held town of Douma on Thursday.

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday that chlorine gas was known to have been weaponised "repeatedly" in attacks in Syria lately. What I'm saying is groups on the ground, NGOs, fighters on the ground said that sarin has been used. They said the jihadists were using shells or improvised explosive devices to deliver the chemicals.

Syria's war has killed more than 340,000 people and displaced millions since it began in March 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.

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