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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

White House Says All Options on Table on Syria

by VOA News April 26, 2013

The White House says U.S. President Barack Obama is awaiting a 'definitive judgment' on the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons before taking action.

White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Friday that U.S. investigators are working to establish 'credible and corroborated facts' to build on the intelligence assessment released Thursday.

He added that there was no timeline for deciding on possible action against Syria.

On Thursday, the White House said U.S. spy agencies believe with 'varying degrees of confidence' the Syrian government has used sarin gas on a small scale against rebels trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

President Obama has said the use of chemical weapons would be a 'game-changer' in the U.S. position on intervening in the two-year-old Syrian civil war.

But it said the evidence was not conclusive enough to change U.S. decision-making on the issue.

Friday, British Prime Minister David Cameron backed the U.S. report, saying there is growing evidence the Syrian government has used chemical weapons against rebels.

He called the development 'very disturbing,' adding that it would amount to a war crime and should represent a 'red line' for the international community.

Some U.S. lawmakers have been more vocal in calling for the U.S. to intervene militarily in the conflict, which has killed at least 70,000 people since it began in March 2011.

Meanwhile, fighting raged on in the capital, Damascus, on Friday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 'fierce clashes' between rebels and government troops broke out in the Barzeh neighborhood in north Damascus, in Jobar district east of the capital, as well as in southern Damascus.

Firas Abi Ali, Middle East analyst at Exclusive Analysis, a specialist intelligence company, told VOA that even if the claims of chemical weapons are confirmed, he believes the United States and other countries are unlikely to initiate a military offensive against Syria's government because of widespread consequences.

'This runs the risk of the use of rockets and chemical weapons targeting Israel and potentially Turkey, and it would lead to an outcome, in which a very large number of very deeply divided Sunni groups, many of which are extremists, end up taking control of Syria. It wouldn't actually end the war because these groups would end up fighting each other,' Ali said.

In his comments Friday, British Prime Minister Cameron agreed with that assessment, but said any response would likely be political rather than military.

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