U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday promised a “vigorous investigation” into reports Syrian forces fired chemical weapons and renewed his warning that proof of their use would be a “game changer.”
Obama is awaiting a “definitive judgment” on whether the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against rebel fighters before taking action, AFP reported the White House as saying on Friday.
“We’re working to establish credible and corroborated facts,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters. “The president wants the facts,” he added, saying there was no timeline for further action by the United States.
Carney also said that options for dealing with Syria’s use of chemical weapons “include” but are “not exclusive” to military force.
Amid U.S. assertions that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against the country’s rebels, the European Union has reiterated its request Damascus enable a U.N. chemical weapons probe into Syria.
“We hope there will be a United Nations investigation inside Syria to hopefully shed some light on what has really happened,” AFP reported, EU’s top diplomat Catherine Ashton, as saying after being queried over the EU stand on Friday.
“The bottom line is this would of course be clearly unacceptable” if proven, she added.
Washington sounded the alarm on Thursday that Damascus may have used chemical weapons but on a “small scale,” but emphasized U.S. spy agencies were still not 100 percent sure, and it needs to collect more evidence.
The London-based The Times newspaper published a video on Friday, saying that it is part of evidence chemical weapons were being used in Syria.
It described the killing of a Syrian citizen’s family as a “private affair,” in the northern city in Aleppo as “no one might have ever known what wiped out the family.”
Red line crossed?
President Obama said Damascus using chemical weapons is a “red line.”
While the U.S. administration is still not sure of its claim, there are those who think differently.
The republican U.S. senator John McCain, who has long urged for military intervention in Syria, said after a national security briefing “I think it’s pretty obvious that a red line has been crossed.”
“Now I hope the administration will consider what we have been recommending now for over two years of this bloodletting and massacre, and that is to provide a safe area for the opposition to operate, to establish a no-fly zone and provide weapons to the people in the resistance who we trust,” he added.
Also, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif said “It is clear that ‘red lines’ have been crossed and action must be taken to prevent larger scale use.”
Feinstein urged the United Nations Security Council to take “strong and meaningful action,” against Syria.
Meanwhile, two Syrian officials denied on Friday that government forces had used chemical weapons against rebels, Damascus’ first response to U.S. assertions that it had, The Associated Press reported.
In Damascus, a government official said President Bashar al-Assad’s army “did not and will not use chemical weapons even if it had them.” He instead accused opposition forces of using them in a March attack on the village of Khan al-Assad outside the northern city of Aleppo.
Both sides have blamed each other for the deadly attack.
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