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‘Assad will use chemical weapons if cornered’

Nawaf Fares, the first Syrian ambassador to defect, said in an interview on Monday that the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will use chemical weapons against opposition forces and may have already deployed them.

Fares, the most prominent politician to defect since the uprising began, stressed that the president’s days were numbered but warned that Assad would be prepared ‘to eradicate the entire Syrian people’ to remain in power.

When asked whether that would mean the use of chemical weapons, Fares said: ‘I am convinced that if Bashar al-Assad’s regime is further cornered by the people - he would use such weapons.’

‘There is information, unconfirmed information, that chemical weapons have been used in Homs,’ the former ambassador to Iraq added.

Syria has a large stock of chemical weapons and neighbouring countries are increasingly concerned about what will happen to them if the regime topples.

Fares said this outcome was now ‘inevitable’.

‘It is absolutely sure that this government will fall in a short time,’ he told the BBC from his refuge in Qatar. ‘We wish for this time to be short so that more sacrifices are reduced.’

Fares, who announced his defection on 11 July, was widely seen as a regime hardliner and his decision to break ranks has triggered suspicion among activists.

Some dissidents say Fares has been likely groomed by the West to play a role in a transitional government while others have spoken about his ‘criminal’ past.

Fares, who has served as governor in several Syrian provinces and has held senior security and Baath party posts, hails from the prominent Oqaydat Sunni tribe in eastern Syria, which also has members in Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

A former policeman, Fares had close ties to the dreaded intelligence services before becoming governor and later Syria’s first ambassador to Iraq following a 30-year rupture in ties between the two neighbours. Syria’s military deployed armoured vehicles near central Damascus on Monday as troops battled rebels around the capital in what activists said could be a turning point in the 16-month uprising.

Fares said the spread of violence to the capital proved that the ‘expansion and the power of the revolution was increasing day-by-day.’


UN TALKS ON SYRIA HEADED FOR VETO

UN Security Council talks on Syria has virtually collapsed, leaving the major powers heading for a veto showdown on a proposal to impose sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia will veto a western resolution linking the renewal of the UN mission with sanctions when it comes to a vote on Wednesday, its UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said after council talks.

A rival Russian resolution just proposing to renew the UN mission would fail to get enough votes from the 15 council members to pass, US envoy Susan Rice told reporters. Russia is Assad’s main ally.

The 90-day mandate of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria [UNSMIS] ends on Friday and if no resolution is passed by then it would have to shut down this weekend, diplomats said.

Rice said it would be ‘immoral’ to leave the nearly 300 unarmed observers in Syria if the council was not going to pressure Assad to carry out the peace plan of UN-Arab League envoy Koffi Annan.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused the West of using ‘elements of blackmail’ by trying to get Russia to agree to link sanctions to the renewal of the UNSMIS mandate.

Britain, France, United States, Germany and Portugal want a vote on their resolution - proposing sanctions under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter - on Wednesday.
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