Russia warns Syria against using chemical weapons

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia chided its longtime ally Syria on Tuesday over its threat to use chemical weapons in case of a foreign attack, but Moscow gave no sign it was abandoning President Bashar Assad’s regime, despite growing international condemnation over the violence in the Arab country.

Syria is Russia’s last remaining ally in the Middle East and hosts the only naval base Moscow has outside the former Soviet Union. Russia has protected Syria from international sanctions and supplied it with weapons amid an escalating civil war.

On Monday, Syria threatened to unleash its chemical and biological weapons if it faces a foreign attack — its first-ever acknowledgement it possesses weapons of mass destruction.

In a statement that reflected a degree of irritation with Assad, the Russian Foreign Ministry reminded Syria it had ratified a global convention banning the use of chemical weapons. It added that Russia expects Syria to “unfailingly honor its international obligations.”

The statement follows earlier Russian rebukes of Assad’s heavy-handed use of force and slow pace of reforms.

But despite occasional criticism, Russia has staunchly refused to back international calls for the Syrian strongman to step down, saying foreign players have no right to determine the nation’s political future, and it must be decided by Syrians themselves.

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