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Obama On Syria And Chemical Weapons

President Barack Obama answers questions during his new conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, April 30, 2013.

“We now have evidence that chemical weapons have been used inside Syria," however, more must be known.

At a news conference in Washington, President Barack Obama said that “we now have evidence that chemical weapons have been used inside Syria.” Mr. Obama cautioned, however, that more must be known for the United States and the international community to respond with appropriate action:

“We don’t know how they were used, when they were used, who used them; we don’t have chain of custody that establishes what exactly happened. And when I am making decisions about America’s national security and the potential for taking additional action in response to chemical weapon use, I’ve got to make sure I’ve got the facts.”

Obama On Syria And Chemical Weapons
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President Obama said if the United States rushes to judgment “without hard effective evidence, then we can find ourselves in the position where we can’t mobilize the international community to support what we do:”

“It’s important for us to do this in a prudent way.”

The United States is already “deeply engaged in trying to bring about a solution in Syria,” noted Mr. Obama. We have insisted that “the only way to bring stability and peace to Syria is going to be for [Syrian President Bashar] Assad to step down and to move forward on a political transition:”

“In pursuit of that strategy, we’ve organized the international community. We are the largest humanitarian donor. We have worked to strengthen the opposition. We have provided non-lethal assistance to the opposition. We have applied sanctions on Syria. So there are a whole host of steps that we’ve been taking precisely because, even separate from the chemical weapons issue, what’s happening in Syria is a blemish on the international community generally, and we’ve got to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to protect the Syrian people.”

If, said President Obama, it can be established “in a way that not only the United States but also the international community feel confident is the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, then that is a game changer, because what that portends is potentially even more devastating attacks on civilians, and it raises the strong possibility that those chemical weapons can fall into the wrong hands and get disseminated in ways that would threaten U.S. security or the security of our allies.”

Such an escalation by Assad, said President Obama, “means that there are some options that we might not otherwise exercise, that we would strongly consider.”