Obama undecided on Syria attack

Updated: 2013-08-29 15:58


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UNITED NATIONS/DAMASCUS - US President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he has not made a decision about how to respond to the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria's internal conflict.

In an interview with the "PBS News Hour" at the White House, Obama said that he is weighing options in the wake of the claimed chemical attack in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21, in which, as many as 1,300 people were reportedly killed.

He said the international norm against the use of banned weapons needs to be "kept in place."

The government of Syria on Wednesday has asked United Nations to investigate three more alleged chemical attacks carried out by rebels in the Damascus suburbs last week.

 "I have just addressed on behalf of my government a letter to both the secretary-general of the United Nations as well as to the president of the Security Council," said Bashar Ja'afari, Syria's permanent representative to the UN.

"The letter contains a request by the Syrian government to the secretary-general to mandate immediately the investigation team present now in Damascus to investigate three heinous incidents that took place in the countryside of Damascus on August 22, 24 and 25," Ja'afari said.

US media have reported that the military strikes under consideration will hit targets inside Syria, involving sea-launched cruise missiles or possibly long-range bombers.

Administration officials said the options are not aimed at toppling the Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad, but rather a direct response to the use of sarin gas last week.

Reactions from the international community

The possible US-led military attack on Syria drew mixed reactions from the international community.

In London, a British government motion published on Wednesday suggests the country may not take military action against Syria until the United Nations completes its investigation on the alleged use of chemical weapons.

The motion said that "every effort should be made to secure a Security Council Resolution backing military action before any such action is taken."

"The United Nations Secretary-General should ensure a briefing to the United Nations Security Council immediately upon the completion of the team's initial mission," it said.

In Ottawa, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said Wednesday it is unclear yet how Canada could contribute to a possible military intervention of Syria and he questioned the country's military capability.

The minister said that while keeping close contact with its allies and reviewing a full-range of options going forward, Ottawa will let decisions be made before it knows whether it has even the capacity to contribute militarily.

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