07/24/2012 05:53 am ET Updated Sep 23, 2012

Israel: Syria's Chemical Weapons Must Not Reach Militant Groups

JERUSALEM, July 24 (Reuters) - The Syrian government is still in full control of its chemical weapons stockpiles, a senior Israeli defence official said on Tuesday.

"The worry, of course, is that the regime will destabilise and the control will also destabilise," the official, Amos Gilad, told Israel Radio.

But he added: "At the moment, the entire non-conventional weapons system is under the full control of the regime."

Western countries and Israel have voiced fears that chemical weapons could fall into the hands of militant groups as the authority of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad erodes.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has said Israel would consider military action, if needed, to ensure those weapons did not reach Assad's Hezbollah guerrilla allies in Lebanon. Israel says Hezbollah, a bitter enemy, has some 70,000 rockets in its arsenal.

On Monday, Syria acknowledged for the first time that it has chemical and biological weapons and said it could use them if foreign nations intervened in the 16-month-old uprising against Assad's rule.