Obama warns Assad on chemical weapons

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US President Barack Obama has warned Syria that using chemical weapons would be a “game changer,” as he faces rising pressure at home and abroad to intervene in the country’s bloody civil war.
But speaking Friday, a day after US officials said they suspected the use of the deadly agent sarin in small-scale attacks, Obama warned that Washington must act prudently, and establish exactly if, how and when such arms were used.
Obama, who had previously told Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that the use of chemical weapons would cross a “red line,” promised a “vigorous” US and international probe into the latest reports.
But he appeared wary of launching military action based on initial intelligence reports of chemical weapons use.
Obama did reiterate that the use of chemical weapons would be “a game changer,” as he met Jordan’s King Abdullah II in the Oval Office.
“I think all of us, not just in the United States but around the world, recognise how we cannot stand by and permit the systematic use of weapons like chemical weapons on civilian populations,” he said.
“We have to act prudently. We have to make assessments deliberately,” he cautioned.
Meanwhile, Claims that chemical weapons have been used in Syria should not become a pretext for a foreign military intervention in the country, Russia’s deputy foreign minister Mikhail Bogdanov said on Saturday.
“If there is serious evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Syria, it should be presented immediately and not concealed,” said Bogdanov, who is Russian President Vladmir Putin’s Middle East envoy, during a visit to Beirut.
“We must check the information immediately and in conformity with international criteria and not use it to achieve other objectives. It must not be a pretext for an intervention in Syria,” added Bogdanov, according to an Arabic translation of his remarks.
Adding to the political heat on Obama, the Syrian opposition urged the UN Security Council to take immediate steps, possibly even by imposing a no-fly zone.

Source: The Daily Star

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