Despite recent reports that Syria may be preparing to use its chemical weapons, a foreign ministry spokesperson today tried to assure the world that they will not be used on the Syrian people—officially acknowledging for the first time that the country actually has such weapons, reports Reuters. "Any chemical or biological weapons will never be used ... in the Syrian crisis, no matter what the internal developments are," he said. But they could still be used: "These weapons are stored and secured by Syrian military forces and under its direct supervision and will never be used unless Syria faces external aggression."
Meanwhile, though rebels were encouraged by the assassination attack last week that killed four regime officials in Damascus, Syrian troops have now driven rebels out of the city's Mezzeh district, yesterday executing at least 20 unarmed men there, Reuters reports. Violence is also raging in Aleppo, Syria's biggest city, and Deir al-Zor. The EU issued new sanctions against Syria today, the Wall Street Journal adds; those include an asset freeze and travel ban on select Syrians, and a tighter arms embargo. The Arab League promised President Bashar al-Assad a "safe exit" if he steps down now. (Read more Syria stories.)