Syrian rebels create new unified military command

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Separately, the Syrian regime reiterated its insistence that it would not use chemical weapons “if it has them under any circumstances because it is defending its people,” according to the letter sent to the U.N. It was carried by the state-run news agency, SANA.

Syria has never confirmed it has chemical weapons. But it is believed to possess substantial stockpiles of mustard gas and a range of nerve agents, including sarin, a highly toxic substance that can suffocate its victims by paralyzing muscles around their lungs.

No rebels are known to have access to these weapons and it is highly unlikely that they know how to operate them.

But the foreign ministry claimed “terrorist groups” — the term it uses for the rebels — recently captured a chlorine plant and warned they “might resort to the use of chemical weapons against Syrians.”

The claim could not be independently verified. The opposition has not commented on the report.

In the Gulf nation of Bahrain, British Foreign Secretary William told a security conference that he had seen “some evidence” that Syria is preparing to use chemical weapons against rebels.”

The Foreign Secretary declined to give details of the intelligence, but again warned Assad’s regime would face action if they were deployed.

Asked about Syrian chemical weapons, he said “we do have contingency plan on this I am sorry I am not going on details.”

Also Saturday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels and troops continued fighting around the Damascus International Airport, south of the capital. The battle around the airport began last week.

State-run Syrian TV said Assad’s army is “continuing its operations” in the suburbs of Damascus and killed a number of “terrorists.”

In the north, a Syrian jet bombed the town of Tal Abyad near the border with Turkey, and rebels responded with anti-aircraft fire, the Turkish state-run Anadolu Agency reported. A plume of smoke could be seen rising from Tal Abyad, it said. No casualties were reported.

Residents at the Turkish border town of Akcakale were told to keep away from the frontier region. On Oct. 3, a shell from the fighting struck a house in the town, killing five people and prompting Turkey to launch retaliatory strikes at Syria.

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Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser contributed to this report from Ankara, Turkey.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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