Syria may be developing new chemical weapons, senior U.S. officials say

Syrian regime targets E. Ghouta with gas White Helmets

Bashar al-Assad's Syrian government is developing new types of chemical weapons, US says

The Syrian government has repeatedly used chemical weapons in attacks on opposition-held areas, according to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, whose latest report, released last September, notes the use of weaponized chlorine in East Ghouta.

The official warned that Syria's chemical weapons could soon spread to other parts of the world, possible even the USA, unless the global community steps up its pressure on Syria's leader Bashar al-Assad.

In 2013, Syria said it would give up all of its chemical weapons.

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France said on Friday it was "deeply concerned" that Syria's government was flouting its pledges to stop using chemical weapons and Paris was working with its partners to shed light on recent suspected toxic gas attacks.

Mr Assad is believed to have secretly kept part of Syria's chemical weapons stockpile, despite a US-Russian deal under which Syria was supposed to have handed over all such weapons for destruction in 2014.

"We reserve the right to use military force to prevent or deter the use of chemical weapons", one official told Reuters, although he did not specify the severity of an attack that would draw a renewed U.S. military response. The Islamic State (Isis) group has been accused of using mustard and chlorine gas in the civil war by delivering those using shells or improvised explosive devices.

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The official was referring to Russia's media offensive to deny its connection to chemical weapons use in Syria. Elliot Higgins, a British-based weapons analyst, said the serial numbers indicated they were from the same batch as those used in a January attack in the area. Nearly all independent analysts and investigators agree the Syrian regime is the culprit of the chemical attacks.

These charges surface just as when the Syrian regime is thought to be behind a suspected chlorine attack on Eastern Ghouta, one of the last strongholds held by anti-Assad rebels, recently.

French foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes Von der Muhll said that reports from the OPCW, the global chemical weapons watchdog, indicated that Damascus had not met commitments made in 2013 to fully abandon its chemical stockpiles and was not conforming with worldwide conventions banning their use.

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It was unclear whether White Helmets was suggesting the three people who had been killed died of suffocation.

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