U.S. watching Syria's chemical arms stockpile closely

The United States and its allies are closely watching Syria's large stockpiles of chemical arms amid concerns that the country's weapons could fall into the hands of terrorist or militant groups during the current uprising.

Thomas Countryman, the assistant secretary of state for international security and non-proliferation, said that the situation in Syria is more difficult to control than the recent similar scenario in Libya, the Associated Press reports.

"When you get to a change of regime in Syria - and of course we don't know when that is - it matters a great deal what are the conditions, whether it is a chaotic or a fairly orderly transfer (of power)," Countryman said, according to the Associated Press. "We would certainly be prepared to work with any successor government to help them secure control of those weapons with the goal of destroying them."

Officials are discussing with allies ways to make sure that Syria's stockpile of portable anti-aircraft missiles aren't diverted or stolen. The U.S. had a much more certain picture of Libya's weapons stockpile than it has of Syria's. Syria is believed to have mustard gas and nerve agent along with scud missiles capable of delivering these chemicals. The chemical arms are believed to be secured for now.

"So far at least I don't think we've seen any examples among troops that are guarding these sites or any activities to suggest the chain of command is weakening," Leonard Spector, a former senior non-proliferation official with the National Nuclear Security Administration, said, according to the Associated Press. "I think what people are worried about is that the situation could become increasingly chaotic and the chain of command breaks down."

The U.S. will spend $40 million helping Libya to recover and secure its stockpiles of portable anti-aircraft weapons. Republicans lawmakers have said that if the arsenals of Syria are threatened, President Obama's administration should move faster than it did in Libya to secure the weapons.