THE ASSAD REGIME has chemical weapons and will not hesitate to use them, the country’s former ambassador to Iraq has said.
Nawaf Fares was speaking to the BBC when he told them that there were already unconfirmed reports that such weapons have already been used – and that al-Qaeda had collaborated with the regime for some major bombings.
Meanwhile, Syrian rebels fired grenades at tanks and troops while regime armour shelled Damascus neighbourhoods on Monday.
A ring of fierce clashes nearly encircled the heavily guarded capital as rebels seeking to overthrow President Bashar Assad pushed the civil war that has been building in Syria’s impoverished provinces closer to the seat of power.
International envoy Kofi Annan, who has made little progress in brokering a political solution in Syria, met Russian leaders in Moscow the same day. The meeting came a day after the conflict crossed an important symbolic threshold, with the international Red Cross formally declaring it a civil war.
Amateur videos posted online on Monday gave glimpses of the fighting. In one, a dozen fighters crouched behind sandbags, firing at a tank down a rubble-strewn street with a machine gun and rocket-propelled grenades.
Another video showed a burnt station wagon with at least three charred bodies inside that an off-camera narrator said were government troops.
The fiercest fighting was in the southwest neighborhoods of Mezzeh, Kfar Souseh, Midan, Tadamon, Nahr Aisha and al-Zahira, while activists also reported clashes in the western suburbs and in the northern neighborhood of Barzeh.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 12 people were killed in and around Damascus, among some 90 people killed nationwide. About a third of the dead were government troops, it said.
The government said little about the clashes, but the state news agency said the army was hunting an “armed terrorist group” in one of the neighborhoods. The regime blames the uprising on terrorists acting out a foreign conspiracy to weaken the country.
Streets were largely deserted in neighbourhoods near the fighting. Many families have fled or are still trying to get out, and fear grips those who remain.
On Monday, Morocco asked the Syrian ambassador to leave the country. Within hours, Syria’s state-run TV said the Foreign Ministry had declared Morocco’s ambassador to Syria persona non grata
- Additional reporting AP