World News

Obama Considering 'Limited' Response to Syria

U.S. President Barack Obama says he has not made a final decision on a response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria, but he says he is considering a "limited, narrow act."

The president commented on Friday, shortly after 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 says the evidence, presented in a declassified version of a report on Friday, shows more than 1,400 Syrians were killed in the attack near Damascus, including at least 426 children.

He said the findings show a Syrian chemical weapons team was in the area of the attacks three days before it occurred. He also says rockets were only fired from regime-controlled areas and only went to opposition controlled or contested neighborhoods.

Kerry says the intelligence report includes intercepted communications in which a senior Syrian official confirms the poison gas attack.

In a Friday briefing, a senior Obama administration official said the president is continuing to receive information on possible options from the military and his national security team.

The official also said the president is consulting with Congress and a variety of international partners.



Kerry did not indicate when President Barack Obama would make a decision.



"President Obama will ensure that the United States of America makes our own decision, on our own timelines, based on our values and our interests. Now, I know that after a decade of conflict, the American people are tired of war. Believe me, I am, too. But fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility."



Kerry said history would judge the U.S. "extraordinarily harshly" if it "turned a blind eye to a dictator's wanton use of weapons of mass destruction."

He called Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a "thug" and a "murderer," and said his regime was guilty of a crime against humanity.

Earlier Friday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the United States would continue to seek an international coalition in response to the Syrian regime's alleged use of chemical weapons, despite opposition by British lawmakers to any military action.

He commented after Britain's lower house of Parliament rejected a motion for British participation in a military strike.

The non-binding vote is a setback for British Prime Minister David Cameron, who told lawmakers a military strike would be a response to a war crime, not an attempt to topple the Syrian government.

Cameron said it is important for Britain to uphold the "international taboo on the use of chemical weapons."



"We will continue to take a case to the United Nations. We will continue to work in all the organizations we're members of, whether the EU or NATO or the G8 or the G20, to condemn what's happened in Syria."



French President Francois Hollande on Friday said the British vote will not affect his country's position on Syria. In an interview with Le Monde newspaper, he said the "chemical massacre" in Damascus could not go unpunished.

Germany also appears to be backing away from any military intervention in Syria. Government officials say a military commitment has not been requested and is not being considered.

Syria denies carrying out a chemical attack and accuses the rebels of using such weapons on Syrian soldiers. In Rome, supporters of Syrian President Assad rallied on Friday to voice opposition to any foreign military intervention in the country.

In Syria, a U.N. team has finished collecting samples from the sites of last week's alleged poison gas attacks. A spokesperson said Friday the team will try to expedite an analysis of the data. The team is due to leave Syria by Saturday.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is discussing developments in Syria with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council on Friday.

Earlier this week, diplomats from Russia and China indicated unwillingness to support a British-draft resolution on possible military action against Syria.

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