Panetta says Syrian chemical weapons threat 'not escalating'
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said intelligence reports suggests that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is not taking aggressive steps to use chemical weapons against the opposition groups trying to oust his regime.
Panetta told reporters during a flight to Kuwait that the relevant intelligence had 'really kind of leveled off.'
"We haven't seen anything new indicating any aggressive steps to move forward in that way," Panetta said.
According to CBS news, he added that U.S. officials 'continue to monitor it very closely and continue to make clear to them that they should not under any means make use of these chemical weapons against their own population.'
"That would produce serious consequences," the report quoted him, as saying.
The report pointed out that Panetta himself never said publicly that Assad was preparing chemical weapons.
He, along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, instead issued repeated, terse warnings to Assad not to take the step, the report said.
"There is no question that we remain very concerned, very concerned, that as the opposition advances, in particular on Damascus, that the regime might very well consider the use of chemical weapons," Panetta had said last week.