MOSCOW, August 29 (RIA Novosti) - US President Barack Obama has said he has not yet decided what Washington’s response will be to the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.
“I’ve not made a decision. I have gotten options from our military, had extensive discussions with my national security team,” Obama said in an interview with American evening TV news program PBS Newshour on Wednesday.
“I think we all understand terrible things have been happening in Syria for quite some time, that the [Bashar] Assad regime there has been killing its own people by the tens of thousands,” he said.
“Although I have called for Assad to leave and make sure that we got a transitional government that could be inclusive in Syria, what I’ve also concluded is that direct military engagement, involvement in the civil war in Syria, would not help the situation on the ground,” Obama said.
“So we’ve been very restrained, although diplomatically, we’ve been very active; we’ve been providing a lot of humanitarian aid to people who’ve been displaced by the war,” he told the news program.
“But what I also said was that if the Assad regime used chemical weapons on his own people, that that would change some of our calculations,” he said.
Western powers are considering armed intervention in the two-year civil war after hundreds of people were killed last week in the Syrian capital Damascus in an apparent nerve gas attack that the Syrian opposition claimed was performed by government forces.
The Syrian government quickly denied the allegations and said it had evidence of rebel groups using chemical weapons.
“We have not yet made a decision, but the international norm against the use of chemical weapons needs to be kept in place. And nobody disputes - or hardly anybody disputes that chemical weapons were used on a large scale in Syria against civilian populations,” Obama said.
“We do not believe that, given the delivery systems, using rockets, that the opposition could have carried out these attacks. We have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these out. And if that’s so, then there need to be international consequences,” he told PBS Newshour.
A UN team of chemical weapons investigators started working in Damascus last week. The team is expected to visit three sites of alleged chemical weapons attacks, including the one last week in Ghouta, an eastern part of the city.
Obama also said he was ready to collaborate with Russia in an effort to cope with the crisis in Syria.
“We’re prepared to work with anybody - the Russians and others - to try to bring the parties together to resolve the conflict,” he said.
Western countries could launch an attack on Syria within days, Reuters reported Tuesday, citing sources who attended a meeting between US envoys and Syrian rebels.
The United Nations Security Council has so far not authorized any military intervention in the Syrian crisis. Moscow, along with Beijing, has previously vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions condemning Syrian President Bashar Assad's government. Russia has urged all parties to the conflict to use diplomatic means to resolve it.
Russia has been Syria's most important ally during the civil war. Moscow has sent to Damascus some weapons that it said were being supplied under previously agreed deals.
Russia harshly criticized the United States on Tuesday for allegedly using “unproven excuses” to justify military action in Syria and said Moscow was “seriously disappointed” by Washington’s decision to put off a bilateral meeting to discuss the crisis.
In a phone conversation on Wednesday requested by the British side, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague informed Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of a British-proposed draft UN resolution authorizing “the necessary measures” to protect Syria’s civilians.
But Lavrov told Hague that it was necessary to wait until UN experts finished their probe into claims that chemical weapons had been used in Syria.