US says Assad used chemical weapons

Posted at: 06/13/2013 4:16 PM
By: Julie Pace, The Associated Press



WASHINGTON (AP) - The United States has conclusive evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime has used chemical weapons against opposition forces seeking to overthrow the government, crossing what President Barack Obama has called a "red line" that would trigger greater American involvement in the crisis, the White House said Thursday.

Officials said Obama was considering both political and military options, but suggested deeper involvement may not be imminent.

"We've prepared for many contingencies in Syria," said Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser. "We are going to make decisions on further actions on our own timeline."

The White House said earlier intelligence assessments that indicated Assad likely used such weapons had now been corroborated. However, the officials said the administration has not determined how it will respond.

Obama has said repeatedly that the use of chemical weapons would cross a "red line" and constitute a "game changer" for U.S. policy on Syria, which until now has focused entirely on providing the opposition with nonlethal assistance and humanitarian aid.

Congress was also being notified of the chemical weapons determination on Thursday in classified documents sent to Capitol Hill, the officials said. The finding was aided by evidence sent to the United States by France, which along with Britain, announced last week that they had determined that Assad's government had used chemical weapons in the two-year conflict.

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