No confirmed reports Assad preparing to use chemical weapons: Ban


There are no confirmed reports that President Bashar al-Assad is preparing to use chemical weapons, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon says in a press conference while visiting Syrian refugee camps in Turkey on Friday.

Ban reiterated his warning, saying that it would be an “outrageous crime” with huge consequences if the Assad regime decides to use chemical weapons against civilians, Reuters reported.

His visit comes amid international warnings to the Assad regime not to use chemical weapons to combat the armed revolt in the war-ravaged country.

Speaking in Iraq on Thursday, Ban said Assad should be “brought to justice” if his Damascus regime uses chemical weapons against its own people.

“I have expressed my gravest concerns to (the) government of Syria and I have sent a letter directed to President Assad a couple of days ago,” Ban told a news conference in Baghdad.

“I have warned that in any case, if chemical weapons is used, then whoever (it) may be will have to be brought to justice, and it will create serious consequences to those people,” the U.N. secretary general said.

The Syrian government has insisted that it would never resort to chemical weapons.

The U.N. chief also called for peace and urgent humanitarian aid for Syrians when visiting a refugee camp in the border town of Islahiye, Al Arabiya reported on Friday.

He highlighted the plight of Syrian refugees and the urgent need for humanitarian help especially from neighboring countries as the United Nations is not receiving half of the required humanitarian assistance to relief the refugees.

“We cannot close our eyes while people are suffering and dying. We have to help them, that’s why I am there,” he said during a press conference in the Zaatari refugee camp.

The U.N. chief said half million Syrians have already left to neighboring countries while there were two million displaced people inside. He particularly thanked the “Jordanian government and people,” for bearing the brunt for receiving more Syrian refugees and for keeping their border with Syrian open for them.

He urged all sides of the conflict to stop violence especially the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad. He said that he is working hard with U.N.-Syria peace envoy Lakhdar Ibrahimi to bring peaceful transition of power.

Since the uprising against Assad first erupted in March 2011, more than 135,000 Syrians have crossed into Turkey, according to official figures provided by the government. Activists say that actual number is likely to be much higher.

Ban will then head to Ankara, where he will hold talks with President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan before leaving the country on Saturday, AFP reported.

Rebels declare airport as target

Meanwhile, rebels fighting in the Syrian capital declared Damascus International Airport a military zone on Friday, warning civilians and airlines not to approach it.

“The rebel brigades who have been putting the airport under siege decided yesterday that the airport is a fair target,” Reuters reported Nabil al-Amir, a spokesman for the rebels’ Damascus Military Council, as saying.

“The airport is now full of armored vehicles and soldiers ... Civilians who approach it now do so at their own risk.”

On Friday, the media office for the Syrian Military Council reported clashes in many areas in Damascus.

Robert Ford, U.S. Ambassador to Syria, said on Thursday at a conference held by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies that the Syrian regime’s days were numbered on the backdrop of the increased battles surrounding the capital.

Ford said the United States backed proposals by the Syrian opposition for post-Assad scenario.