President Obama Meets with National Security Aides to Discuss Syria
President Barack Obama met with top national security officials Saturday to discuss the chemical weapons attack that occurred earlier this week in Syria, as a top U.N. representative arrived in Damascus to press for an investigation into the incident.
Obama convened with his security advisers to discuss allegations that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons earlier this week to attack a suburb near the capital, killing 1300 civilians.
"The President has directed the intelligence community to gather facts and evidence so that we can determine what occurred in Syria. Once we ascertain the facts, the President will make an informed decision about how to respond," a White House official stated.
"We have a range of options available, and we are going to act very deliberately so that we're making decisions consistent with our national interest as well as our assessment of what can advance our objectives in Syria," the official added.
Meanwhile, U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Angela Kane arrived in Damascus on Saturday, pushing the Syrian government to allow a team of 20 investigators — experts in chemical weapons — to look into the incident.
The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has said he is determined to "conduct a thorough, impartial and prompt investigation."
The Syrian government is denying claims that it was behind in the chemical assault and on Saturday, Syrian state television alleged that "army heroes" had found chemical agents in rebel tunnels.
But the international community remains skeptical. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Saturday that "all the information at our disposal converge to indicate that there was a chemical massacre near Damascus and that the [Bashar al-Assad's regime] is responsible".
Even Russia, Syria's long-term ally, is urging President Assad to fully cooperate with the U.N's investigation.
In an interview with CNN on Friday, Obama said the the matter was "of grave concern," but cautioned against a hurried and unilateral response.
"If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it," he said.