Clinton, allies issue warning as Syria moves chemical weapons

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad not to use chemical weapons and said the United States was prepared to act if he ignored the warning.

"This is a red line for the United States," Clinton said. "I am not going to telegraph in any specifics what we would do in the event of credible evidence that the Assad regime has resorted to using chemical weapons against their own people. But suffice it to say we are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to occur."

There have been signs in recent days of heightened activity at some of Syria's chemical weapons sites, according to American and Israeli officials familiar with intelligence reports. Clinton did not confirm the intelligence reports or say what sort of activity was occurring.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry, in a swift response, said the government "would not use chemical weapons, if it had them, against its own people under any circumstances." The statement was reported on Syrian state television and on Lebanese channel LBC.

An American task force has been deployed to Jordan and has been helping the Jordanians deal with the escalating humanitarian crisis, including an exodus of more than 200,000 refugees from Syria to Jordan. The force is also planning how to respond, if necessary, to a chemical weapons threat.

Although Clinton's reference to a "red line" echoed a warning issued by President Obama in August, it was the most explicit warning from a ranking American official since reports of renewed chemical weapons activity began to surface in recent days.

What exactly is happening at Syria's chemical sites is unclear. One American official said Sunday that "the activity we are seeing suggests some potential chemical weapon preparation," which goes beyond the mere movement of stockpiles among Syria's several dozen known sites. But the official declined to offer more specifics.

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