Israel: U.S. discussed collapse of Assad gov't

Waving flags, supporters of the group Hezbollah hold up photos of Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, and Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, during a rally marking the sixth anniversary of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, in Beirut, July 18, 2012. Nasrallah condemned an attack that killed three Assad regime leaders in Damascus Wednesday, calling them "comrades" in the struggle against Israel.
AP Photo/Bilal Hussein

(AP) JERUSALEM - Israeli leaders have discussed with visiting American envoys how to manage a Syrian government collapse, an Israeli official said Monday, as Syria made an unprecedented admission of possessing weapons of mass destruction.

The reference to the chemical and biological weapons came in a threat to use them in case of a foreign attack. The open admission underlined Israel's concerns about the rapidly deteriorating regime of President Bashar Assad.

Israel and the U.S. are concerned that Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons could fall into the hands of Islamist militants should the regime in Damascus crumble. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Sunday that his country would "have to act" if necessary to safeguard this arsenal from rogue poachers.

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Syria is believed to have nerve agents as well as mustard gas, Scud missiles capable of delivering these lethal chemicals and a variety of advanced conventional arms, including anti-tank rockets and late-model portable anti-aircraft missiles.

Asked if Israel and the U.S. had discussed managing a Syrian collapse, the Israeli government official said on Monday, "You can presume that these sorts of issues came up with American officials when they visited recently in Israel."

He gave no details and spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the contents of confidential discussions with reporters.

U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton visited Israel about a week ago, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is expected in Israel next week.