US considering military action on Syria – official

Agence France-Presse
An official travelling with Chuck Hagel says the Pentagon chief plans to speak to his British and French counterparts soon to discuss the crisis

Syrian army tanks are seen deployed in the Jobar neighborhood of Damascus on August 24, 2013. APF/Stringer

JAKARTA, Indonesia – The United States is increasingly convinced that the Syrian regime was behind a deadly chemical weapons attack last week and Washington is considering possible military action, an official said Monday, August 26.

“There are strong signs pointing in the direction of chemical weapons use” by the Syrian regime, the senior US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters travelling with Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel on a Southeast Asian tour.

“Our confidence is growing that this was in fact an episode involving the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime,” the official said.

“The administration is considering its response options in consultation with our international partners.”

Hagel planned to speak to his British and French counterparts soon to discuss the crisis, the official said.

At a press conference earlier in Jakarta, Hagel reiterated that any action against Syria would be taken in cooperation with international partners and with a legal basis.

The comments by Hagel and the senior US official represented the latest sign that the US and its allies were moving towards possible military strikes against Damascus over the use of chemical weapons, which President Barack Obama has portrayed as a “red line.”

The US official said President Bashar al-Assad’s treatment of UN inspectors who were trying to investigate allegations of a lethal chemical weapons attack represented “classic delaying tactics.”

“As time goes on, it’s harder and harder to collect, examine and analyse information to reach a conclusion about chemical weapons,” the official said.

The official spoke after UN inspectors on the ground in Syria were shot at as they were heading to the site of the alleged attack outside Damascus.

In Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the West against intervening militarily in the Syrian conflict without the approval of the UN Security Council, saying such action would violate international law.

“If anyone thinks that destroying Syria’s military infrastructure and leaving the battleground open for the opposition to take victory would be the end of it, that is an illusion,” said Lavrov.

Lavrov said the West has been unable to produce any evidence to back claims that the Syrian government used chemical weapons in the incident last week.

He added that calls for military action “contradicted” agreements from the G8 summit at Loch Erne in Northern Ireland in June.

Lavrov compared the current atmosphere to the events that built up to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the 2011 NATO-led air campaign against the Moamer Kadhafi regime in Libya.

In Riyadh, the Saudi government on Monday urged the UN Security Council to take “deterrent” action against the Syrian regime’s “massacres” and its alleged use of chemical weapons against its own people.

The kingdom “urges the international community represented by the UN Security Council to take up its responsibilities towards the tragedies and terrible massacres committed by the (Syrian) regime against its people using… arms that include internationally banned chemical weapons.”

Saudi Arabia has openly voiced support for the 29-month-old armed revolt against President Bashar al-Assad. – 

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