Syria has “Serious fear” it will be framed for the use of chemical weapons

(CNN) — The newly elected head of Syria’s opposition will brief European foreign ministers Monday on the worsening crisis there, European Union foreign affairs representative Catherine Ashton said.

Ashton met Monday with Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib and pledged European support ahead of the monthly meeting of European Union foreign ministers.

“We want to help, but it’s their country,” she said.

Al-Khatib is to discuss his proposal for a political transition plan, part of a comprehensive effort to end the hostilities that have left thousands of people dead in nearly 21 months of fighting that the administration of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad characterizes as a fight against terrorism.

Ashton said the world must take a stand against al-Assad’s actions.

“It is important that we recognize the terrible things that have been happening in Syria and the responsibility that Assad has,” Ashton said. “We said from the very beginning that it is no place to be in a position of power in your country if you respond to peaceful demonstrations with the murder of your citizens.”

On Sunday, the joint United Nations and Arab League envoy on Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said a political solution is still possible even though the situation is “bad and getting worse.”

Brahimi’s comments came after a meeting with U.S. and Russian diplomats.

He released a statement saying the meeting “explored avenues to move forward a peaceful process and mobilize greater international action in favour of a political solution to the Syrian crisis.”

Meanwhile, Syria accused the United States of working to frame the country for using chemical weapons, according to Syrian state-run media.

“The U.S. administration has consistently worked over the past year to launch a campaign of allegations on the possibility that Syria could use chemical weapons during the current crisis,” the Foreign Ministry wrote in letters to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency reported.

“What raises concerns about this news circulated by the media is our serious fear that some of the countries backing terrorism and terrorists might provide the armed terrorist groups with chemical weapons and claim that it was the Syrian government that used the weapons,” SANA quoted the letters as saying.

U.S. officials have expressed concern about intelligence suggesting that Syrian military units may be preparing chemical weapons for use.

President Barack Obama has called the use of chemical weapons a “red line” that would prompt swift U.S. reaction.

The United States and European allies are using defense contractors to train Syrian rebels on how to secure chemical weapons stockpiles, according to a senior U.S. official and several senior diplomats.

The training is taking place in Jordan and Turkey, and involves how to monitor and secure stockpiles and handle weapons sites and materials, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the issue.

Some of the contractors are in Syria working with the rebels to monitor some of the sites, one of the officials said.

Opposition groups said fighting continued across the country on Monday.

At least seven people died Monday, including a woman and two children killed by shelling in a Damascus suburb, the Local Coordination Committees of Syria said.

In one Aleppo neighborhood, opposition activists said, they discovered 10 handcuffed and blindfolded corpses killed by government forces in recent weeks, the observatory reported.

CNN is unable to confirm casualty reports as the government has severely restricted access by international journalists.

Source: edition.cnn.com