Netanyahu says Syria must be stripped of its chemical weapons

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday Syria must be stripped of its chemical weapons and that the international community must make sure those who use weapons of mass destruction pay a price.

Speaking at a military ceremony, Netanyahu said Syria had carried out a "crime against humanity" by killing innocent civilians with chemical weapons and that Syria's ally Iran, who is at odds with the West over its nuclear program, was watching to see how the world acted.

"It must be ensured that the Syrian regime is stripped of its chemical weapons, and the world must make sure that whoever uses weapons of mass destruction pays a price for it," Netanyahu said. "The message that is received in Syria will be received loudly in Iran."

Taking the stage after Netanyahu, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon reiterated Israel's position that in confronting regional threats, "at the end of the day, we have to trust in ourselves, in our strength and in our ability to deter".

The remarks came after Syria accepted a Russian proposal that it give up its chemical stockpiles in the face of possible U.S. military action. It denies carrying out the chemical attack.

Israel views the civil war in neighboring Syria almost entirely through the prism of Iran, which it believes is trying to develop an atomic bomb. Iran denies it wants nuclear weapons and says its nuclear program is for civilian purposes.

Netanyahu has called on world powers to strengthen sanctions on Iran and has repeatedly said Tehran would only curb its nuclear activities if it faced a credible military threat. Israel is widely believed to have the Middle East's only nuclear arsenal.

(Reporting by Ari Rabinovitch; Editing by Alison Williams)

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