Obama, security team meet on Syria chemical attack

US President Barack Obama met with his top national security advisors early on Saturday to discuss the response to Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons, a White House official said.

By (AFP)

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Published: Sat 24 Aug 2013, 7:01 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 5:30 PM

“The president has directed the intelligence community to gather facts and evidence so that we can determine what occurred in Syria. Once we ascertain the facts, the president will make an informed decision about how to respond,” the official said.

“We have a range of options available, and we are going to act very deliberately so that we’re making decisions consistent with our national interest as well as our assessment of what can advance our objectives in Syria.”

Obama is under mounting pressure to act following reports of a massive chemical attack near Damascus that opposition groups say killed as many as 1,300 people.

The Syrian government has denied using chemical weapons.

Obama had repeatedly warned that the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s forces was a “red line” that could bring about a more strident Western response to the two-year-old civil war.

On Friday Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel suggested that the United States was moving forces into place ahead of possible military action against Syria.

However, Obama has also voiced caution about the kind of intervention that could draw the United States into another prolonged conflict in the Middle East.

US commanders have nevertheless prepared a range of options for Obama if he chooses to proceed with military strikes against Damascus, Hagel told reporters during a visit to Southeast Asia.

“The Defence Department has a responsibility to provide the president with options for all contingencies,” Hagel said.

“And that requires positioning our forces, positioning our assets to be able to carry out different options — whatever the president might choose.”

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