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US Not Waiting for UN to Respond on Syria

Deputy State Department Spokeswoman Marie Harf is seen at the August 28, 2013, daily briefing at the State Department in Washington, D.C.
The United States says it will not wait for the United Nations to respond to the suspected chemical weapons attack in Syria. The Obama administration is building an alliance outside the U.N. as it considers possible military action against Syria.

Deputy State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the president is not waiting for the United Nations to decide what to do about Syria. "We are making our own decisions on our own timeline, and we believe that the U.N. inspection has passed the point where it can be credible," she said.

That inspection of last week's attack outside Damascus is meant only to confirm the use of chemical weapons, not to determine who is responsible. Washington has already determined that President Bashar al-Assad's forces are responsible so Harf said they must be held accountable.

She said Obama is deciding how. "The president has a range of military contingencies on his table regarding Syria for when and if he would ever need to use them. Again, we're not talking about boots on the ground. We're not talking about no-fly zones at this point."

Military forces around Syria
Military forces around Syria
Syria's government denies involvement in last week's attack and says the United States is trying to use allegations of chemical weapons as a pretext for striking Syria. If attacked, Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Syria will defend itself using "all means available."

As Obama draws closer to the possible use of military force in Syria, some U.S. lawmakers are demanding that he seek authorization from Congress.

Harf said congressional leaders will get a classified intelligence briefing before U.S. action. She said the administration continues to consult closely with lawmakers and foreign allies.

"Look at the dozens and dozens of calls and discussions that Secretary Kerry, the president, Secretary Hagel have had with our counterparts across the world, whether its NATO, the Arab League, a host of countries in the Middle East, in Europe, elsewhere. Clearly, we are consulting the international community and a broad range of international partners on the best course forward," she said.

Facing Russian opposition to a U.N. authorization of force in Syria, Harf said Washington will take its own "appropriate actions to respond in the days ahead."