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Peace in Syria: A 'very, very difficult task'

Alluding to the possibility of chemical weapons being used in Syria by Assad, Western governments say, 'We have not ruled out any options as this crisis deepens.' In the meantime Russia, Syria's closest ally, says Syria has no plans to use such weapons.  

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Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov speaks in an interview to the Associated Press in Moscow, Russia in August. Russia says Syria does not plan to cross the Obama's 'red line' by using chemical weapons.

AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel

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Western powers are preparing a tough response if Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime deploys chemical or biological weapons in its civil war, key European officials warned Monday.

Syria's leadership has said the country, which is believed to have nerve agents as well as mustard gas and Scud missiles capable of delivering them, could use chemical or biological weapons if it were attacked from outside.

"Our response ... would be massive and blistering," if Assad's forces used such weapons, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told RMC radio.

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague told the House of Commons he had asked U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to begin preparations so the U.N. could quickly deploy experts to make checks if "we have any reports of such chemical weapons being used or moved."

Hague said the U.S., France and Britain had been clear to Assad that the use of chemical weapons could prompt a dramatic change in their handling of Syria's civil war. President Barack Obama has called the issue a "red line" for the U.S.

"We have not ruled out any options as this crisis deepens," Hague told lawmakers.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron has said the U.K. had no plans to intervene militarily in Syria, but that the use of chemical weapons would lead him to "revisit" that approach.

Fabius confirmed that Western countries were monitoring the movement of the weapons in Syria to be ready to "step in" immediately if necessary. "We are discussing this notably with our American and English partners," he said.

The French minister said Russia and China were "of the same position," but did not elaborate. China and Russia have repeatedly used their veto powers in the U.N. Security Council to block U.S.- and Arab-backed action that could have led to sanctions against Assad's regime.

"The Russian position on this is only likely to change when the situation on the ground changes further, to a substantial degree," said Hague, reflecting talks he and Cameron held with Russian President Vladmir Putin during the London Olympics last month.

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