Syria secures its chemical weapons


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The Independent Online

The Syrian government has moved some of its chemical weapons capability to better secure it, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said yesterday, as rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad launched what they said was a "decisive" battle for Aleppo.

The moving of such sensitive weaponry is likely to raise fears over the possibility of their use by government forces, as they struggle to put down an 18 month-long uprising. US President Barack Obama has previously warned Damascus that the use of chemical weapons would be a "red line" that would provoke "enormous consequences."

Citing US intelligence, Mr Panetta said some chemicals had been moved "in order for the Syrians to better secure the chemicals". He added that, despite the movement, "the major sites still remain in place, still remain secure."

Meanwhile, fighting over Syria's largest city intensified yesterday, with the most widespread battles reported there in two months as rebel forces launched a new offensive.

"The city is witnessing one of the most violent days. All fronts are on fire," Aleppo-based activist Baraa al-Halabi said.