SYRIA'S Government has accused Western powers of whipping up concerns over chemical weapons as a pretext for intervention in the country's civil war.

Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Maqdad spoke out yesterday as Germany's cabinet approved stationing Patriot anti-missile batteries on Turkey's border with Syria – a step President Bashar al Assad's regime fears could lead to the imposition of a no-fly zone over its territory.

In an interview on Lebanonese television, Mr Maqdad said: "Syria stresses – for the 10th, the 100th time – that if we had such weapons, they would not be used against its people. We would not commit suicide. We fear there is a conspiracy to provide a pretext for interventions in Syria by the United States and some European countries."

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Nato leaders have warned the use of chemical weapons would cross a red line and have consequences, which they have not specified. But Mr Assad could lose the diplomatic support from Russia and China that has blocked military intervention in the 20-month-old uprising that has clamed 40,000 lives.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Dublin yesterday to try to put a UN peace process for Syria back on track.