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Clinton says 'desperate' Assad could use chemical arms

Published on Dec 6, 2012 6:28 AM
 
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks as she sits beside European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (right) during a visit to the new External Action Service (EAS) headquarters in Brussels on Dec 5, 2012. Washington fears a "desperate" Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad could use chemical weapons as rebels bear down on Damascus, Mrs Clinton said on Wednesday, repeating a vow to take swift action if he does. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIRUT/BRUSSELS (REUTERS) - Washington fears a "desperate" Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad could use chemical weapons as rebels bear down on Damascus, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday, repeating a vow to take swift action if he does.

Rebels fighting to overthrow Assad said they had surrounded an air base near Damascus, a fresh sign the battle is closing in on the Syrian capital, a day after North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) agreed to send air defence missiles to Turkey.

The Western military alliance's decision to send United States (US), German and Dutch Patriot missile batteries to help defend the Turkish border would bring European and US troops to Syria's frontier for the first time in the 20-month-old civil war.

Heavier fighting erupted around Damascus a week ago, bringing a war that had previously been fought mainly in the provinces to the centre of Assad's power. Fighters said on Wednesday they had surrounded the Aqraba air base, about 4km outside the capital.

 
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