August 31, 2013
Obama to Discuss Syria Crisis
U.S. President Barack Obama and top White House officials are holding talks on Syria's crisis as a U.N. chemical weapons team prepares to present its findings to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The White House says Obama will make a public statement on Syria Saturday. White House officials say the president will not announce an imminent military strike.
Friday, Obama said he is considering a "limited, narrow" response to the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons.
Meanwhile, the White House says senior national security officials are holding conference calls with Senate leaders on Saturday.
The flurry of U.S. discussions is expected to continue on Sunday when the White House plans on holding a classified briefing on Syria for the House of Representatives.
The U.N. inspection team wrapped up its work and left Syria on Saturday.
A spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the U.N. chief will be briefed further on Sunday by the head of the team. But in a Saturday briefing, the spokesman, Martin Nesirky, declined to say when the team would present its full report.
Nesirky said the team collected samples that will be analyzed in laboratories as well as witness statements and interviews with doctors and survivors.
The Syrian government has denied having any role in chemical weapons attacks.
Also, Russian President Vladimir Putin said it would be "utter nonsense" for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons when it is winning the war against "rebels."
In a Saturday statement, Putin urged the U.S. to allow the U.N. chemical weapons team to present its findings.
"As for the position of our American colleagues and friends who state that the government forces have used weapons of mass destruction, in this case used chemical weapons, and say that they have evidence - let them present them to the U.N. inspectors and the U.N. Security Council,'' he said.
On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. intelligence community had "high confidence" in a report indicating the Syrian government carried out a poison gas attack last week.
Kerry said the evidence, presented in a declassified version of a report, shows more than 1,400 Syrians were killed in the attack, including at least 426 children.
The U.N. inspectors collected samples from the sites of the alleged poison gas attacks in Damascus suburbs. The group will report to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In another development, the opposition Syrian National Coalition and some civilians in Damascus say Syrian government forces have been rounding up political prisoners to potentially use as human shields during any military strikes.