US helping Jordan deal with possible Syria chemical threat: PM
August 20, 2013 - 12:00:00 am
AMMAN: The United States is providing Amman with technical assistance against any possible chemical threat from neighbouring Syria, Jordan's prime minister said on Monday.
Abdullah Nsur made the comment at a news conference a day after UN inspectors tasked with investigating whether chemical weapons have been used in the 29-month Syria war arrived in Damascus.
"We are ready for the possibilities of chemical wars. UN investigators are in Syria now, so apparently there are chemical weapons," Nsur told reporters.
"US teams are helping Jordan with this. They provide training and other things should something happens, God forbids," he said giving details on the exact nature of the US assistance.
"We do not know how long the war in Syria will last, but as long as the war is still raging, we need this (US) technical assistance," he added.
Fearing a spillover of the Syrian conflict, the United States has deployed in Jordan F-16 fighters and Patriot missile defences as well as about 1,000 US troops, to protect its close Arab ally.
A team of more than 10 UN inspectors arrived on Sunday in Damascus to begin their hard-won mission which UN officials have said will last two weeks.
Both the Syrian government and the rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad accuse each other of using chemical weapons.
"As long as the UN is investigating, our duty is to assume that such weapons exist and take precautionary measures," Nsur said.
In such a context, he said, "our duty is to protect our people, border villages and the Syrian refugees the kingdom is hosting."
The Syrian regime admitted in July last year for the first time that it has chemical weapons, threatening to use them to protect the country against Western military intervention but "never against the people".
Jordan is home to more than 500,000 Syrian refugees, including 130,000 in the northern Zaatari camp near the border with Syria.
US army chief General Martin Dempsey held talks in Jordan last week on ways to help the Jordanian military tackle fallout from the Syrian conflict, a Jordanian government official said Thursday.
A Pentagon statement quoted Dempsey as saying that the types of possible US support that were discussed include border surveillance, intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance assistance and training Jordanian special operations forces. (AFP)