U.N. pulls staff from Damascus, as fighting in Syria escalates (+video)
Over the past few weeks the fighting in the Syrian capital of Damascus has steadily grown worse as the rebels continue their assaults on the government-held city.
(Page 2 of 2)
"Creating a new potential on the border will not settle the situation but rather exacerbate it," he said. "Why would we need more shelling on the border?"Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The two countries are firmly enmeshed in Syria's conflict, on opposite sides. Russia continues to back Assad, thrice protecting his regime from censure by the U.N. Security Council. Turkey has called for Assad's ouster and its southern border with Turkey has become a key supply line for rebel forces.
Lebanese security officials said Makdissi, the Foreign Ministry spokesman known for defending Assad crackdown on the opposition as necessary military action against "terrorists," flew from Beirut to London. It was not immediately known whether he had abandoned the regime and he did not respond to phone calls.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.
The U.S. has so far declined to intervene in Syria's civil war, saying doing so could worsen the conflict.
U.S. officials said the White House and its allies are weighing military options to secure Syria's chemical and biological weapons, after U.S. intelligence reports show the Syrian regime may be readying those weapons and may be desperate enough to use them.
President Barack Obama pointedly warned Assad on Monday not to use the weapons.
"Today I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad and those under his command: The world is watching," Obama said in a speech at the National Defense University. "The use of chemical weapons is and would be totally unacceptable. And if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held accountable."
"But suffice it to say, we are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to occur," Clinton said.
Options now being considered range from aerial strikes to limited raids by regional forces to secure the stockpiles, according to one current U.S. official, and one former U.S. official, briefed on the matter. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
Syria is believed to have several hundred ballistic surface-to-surface missiles capable of carrying chemical warheads, and a U.S. defense official said American and allied intelligence officials have detected activity around more than one of Syria's chemical weapons sites in the last week.
He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters about intelligence matters.
Syria's Foreign Ministry said Monday that Syria "will not use chemical weapons — if there are any — against its own people under any circumstances."
Heilprin reported from Geneva. Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, Aya Batrawy in Cairo, Bradley Klapper in Prague, Kimberly Dozier and Pauline Jelinek in Washington and Vladimir Isachenkov in Istanbul contributed reporting.