'Intelligence evidence' showing Syrian troops readying chemical weapons prompted Obama's warning
US President Barck Obama last week issued his stern warning to Syria over not resorting to use chemical weapons, after Western intelligence agencies observed Syrian units making advanced preparations for the potential use of the lethal munitions, Western and Middle Eastern officials have said.
Officials said soldiers at one Syrian base were monitored mixing precursors for chemical weapons and taking other steps to ready weapons for battlefield use.
They said that it was the first hard evidence that Syria was moving toward possible activation of its vast arsenal of chemical weapons, which includes nerve gas and other poisons, the Washington Post reports.
According to the paper, surveillance photos confirmed that at least one army unit began loading special military vehicles that transport bombs and artillery shells carrying chemical warheads, officials said.
The moves followed specific orders to elite troops to begin preparations for the use of the weapons against advancing rebel fighters, the paper said.
However, two Western officials briefed on the intelligence findings said that the Syrian Government forces stopped the preparations late last week, adding that there was no evidence that activated chemical weapons were loaded onto aircraft or deployed to the battlefront.
Intelligence analysts said the orders to prepare the weapons were issued about two weeks ago. They said it was not clear whether the decision came from senior Syrian leaders, possibly including President Bashar al-Assad, or from a field commander acting on his own, the paper added.