U.S. Fears Syria Moving Chemical Weapon Stockpiles

U.S. officials say Syria has begun mobilizing its chemical weapon stockpiles and transporting them out of storage facilities, the Wall Street Journal reports.

For some in Washington, this is an alarming development that could lead to such weapons being used against opposition forces and civilians. Other analysts say the move by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is to safeguard the materials from his opponents.

"We have repeatedly made it clear that the Syrian government has a responsibility to safeguard its stockpiles of chemical weapons, and that the international community will hold accountable any Syrian officials who fail to meet that obligation," Department of State spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told the Journal.

Included in the stockpiles are weapons that contain sarin nerve agent, mustard gas and cyanide, the Journal reported.

Syrian officials denied that such a move has taken place, the Journal reports, saying it was "ridiculous and untrue."

In addition, Reuters reported that more than 220 Syrians, most of whom civilians, were massacred in a village near Hama on Friday. Alawite forces loyal to Assad bombarded the Sunni Muslim village of Tremseh with helicopter gunfire and artillery shelling from tanks. If confirmed, this would be the largest massacre since the 16-month uprising began last year.

Kofi Annan, the UN envoy to Syria, said the killings violate "the government's undertaking to cease the use of heavy weapons in population centers," according to the Associated Press.

"I condemn these atrocities in the strongest possible terms," Annan said in a statement. "It is yet another reminder of the nightmare and the horrors Syrian civilians are being subjected to."

The United Nations Security Council will meet on Friday to discuss dueling resolutions from the U.S. and Russia on how to deal with the Syrian conflict.