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U.S. Must Prevent Proliferation of Syrian Chemical Arms, Lawmaker Says

A senior Republican lawmaker on Wednesday said the United States must take steps to prevent the diversion of chemical weapons held by the embattled Assad regime in Syria, Reuters reported (see GSN, May 29).

"Let me tell you what keeps me up at night: We know of at least a dozen or so sites that have some very serious chemical-weapon caches -- and that's just what we know of -- in Syria," House intelligence committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said on CNN.

He added that Washington must "make sure all the right steps are taken so that we don't lose these weapons caches and something more horrific happens."

Damascus has not joined the Chemical Weapons Convention or provided any sort of public accounting of its presumed stockpile of blister and nerve agents. However, Syria's arsenal is believed to be greater in size than secret stocks held by any other nations, according to Reuters.

The government of President Bashar Assad has sought to crush the opposition movement that began in March 2011, but fighting continues. There are concerns that the regime might use its chemical weapons against the resistance or that lethal materials could end up in the hands of militant organizations such as Hezbollah.

The United States has said it is keeping close watch over the situation, while a leading Syrian opposition representative reportedly said recently that a plan had been developed for quickly taking control of the stockpiles should the government collapse (see GSN, Dec. 5, 2011; Doina Chiacu, Reuters, May 30).

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