U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said unconfirmed "raw data" appears to back French findings that Syria launched more than a dozen new chemical attacks.
"It has been made clear by President Obama and others that use would result in consequences," Kerry said in London on Thursday. "We’re not going to pin ourselves down to a precise time, date, manner of action, but there will be consequences if it were to be proven."
Kerry made the remarks when asked about Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's Wednesday comment that he had "not seen any evidence of the specifics" behind assertions laid out this week by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. The top French diplomat accused Syrian President Bashar Assad's government of using chemical arms on at least 14 occasions since late October.
Hagel, speaking to reporters in Saudi Arabia, noted that allegations of recent chlorine-gas use in Syria's civil war are under investigation by the world's chemical-weapons watchdog.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons must "deeply" scrutinize the allegations, because any new use of chemical arms in the 3-year-old conflict may carry significant implications, the Pentagon chief said.
"If there has been a continued use or any use of chemical weapons, that would affect" an international effort to dismantle the Assad regime's chemical arsenal, Hagel said. The government pledged to relinquish its chemical-warfare materials after sarin nerve agent killed hundreds of people in a rebel-held Damascus suburb last August, prompting threats of an international military response.
On Thursday, Hagel's Israeli counterpart joined France in charging Assad's regime with launching chlorine-gas attacks, the Associated Press reported.
"We still see it now," Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said of chemical-weapons use by the government in Damascus. He made the remark in Tel Aviv, during a joint news conference with Hagel.
Assad's government still has not placed roughly 100 metric tons of its declared chemical-arms substances in international custody, and worries have persisted that the regime is concealing some of its stockpiles, the Wall Street Journal reported. Still, no signs have emerged that the Obama administration is weighing any new threat of force, according to the newspaper.
This article was published in Global Security Newswire, which is produced independently by National Journal Group under contract with the Nuclear Threat Initiative. NTI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan group working to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.