PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — The United States on July 13 said that Syrian officials would be “held accountable” if they failed to safeguard the country’s chemical weapons after a report suggested some were being moved out of storage.
The Wall Street Journal reported July 12 that intelligence reports suggested some chemical weapons were on the move, but the reasons for the transfers were unclear.
It said some U.S. officials feared the weapons could be used against rebels or civilians, while others believed the material was being deliberately hidden from armed opposition groups or Western powers.
“We have repeatedly made it clear that the Syrian government has a responsibility to safeguard its stockpiles of chemical weapons,” said Victoria Nuland, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department.
“The international community will hold accountable any Syrian officials who fail to meet that obligation,” she added in a statement made during a trip by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Cambodia.
The Journal said the Obama administration was “particularly worried about Syria’s stocks of sarin gas, the deadly and versatile nerve agent.” Syria is also believed to have reserves of mustard gas and cyanide.
“It’s very important that the Syrian regime maintains its control and security of these very dangerous weapons,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said.
“Our assessment remains what it’s been for some time, that the Syrian regime has control of its chemical weapons stockpiles. We’re watching very closely, not just the United States but the international community.”
More than 17,000 people have been killed in violence since an uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime broke out in March 2011, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.