Chemical weapons use in Syria: US reaches out to world leaders

Last Updated: Saturday, August 24, 2013 - 09:36

Washington: The United States has been reaching out to world leaders amidst reports of use of chemical weapons by Syria`s Assad regime, with the Pentagon moving military assets, in particular a naval ship, near the country.
Personally leading the intensification of diplomatic activities, US Secretary of State John Kerry in the last 24 hours not only spoke to the leader of the Syrian Opposition Council, the UN Secretary General, and those from the European Union and the Arab League, but also spoke to his counterparts in Britain, France, Jordan, Qatar, Turkey, Russia, Germany, UAE, Italy, and Egypt.

"During all of these calls, the Secretary reiterated the United States` commitment to continue working urgently to gather the facts on the ground and also expressed our concern and outrage over the disturbing reports, photos, and videos we have seen, which shock the conscience and that anyone would see as beyond the pale," a State Department official said on the condition of anonymity.

As Kerry was busy galvanising international community against the need to act in Syria in aftermath of the use of chemical weapons, the Department of Defence, moved naval forces towards Syria in preparation for a possible decision by US President Barack Obama, to order military strikes.

"The Defence Department has a responsibility to provide the president with options for contingencies, and that requires positioning our forces, positioning our assets, to be able to carry out different options whatever options the president might choose," Hagel told reporters travelling with him to Asia.

The United States, he said is coordinating with the international community to determine "what exactly did happen" in the reported use by the Syrian government of chemical weapons against civilians earlier this week.

The White House said there is some evidence to indicate that chemical weapons may have been involved.

"Given our interest in ensuring that weapons of mass destruction are not proliferating and the need to protect our allies in the region, the President believes that this is something that requires our attention. This is also something that requires the attention of the international community," White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.

Kerry`s outreach is part of this effort, he said, but refrained to discuss military option.

"We have declined to describe the kinds of options that are being prepared, other than to say that the Department of Defence is always prepared to provide the Commander-in-Chief with the kind of advice that he may need," he said.

"Right now, we just see the Assad regime that is standing in the way of that investigation, and that`s something that we`re quite concerned about and that puts the Assad regime not just at odds with the United States and with the UN investigative team that`s there, but with the broader international community. And the President wants to continue to build international support to address the situation in Syria," Earnest said.


First Published: Saturday, August 24, 2013 - 09:35

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