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Syria: Obama skeptical of a chemical weapon attack by rebels

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Obama said the U.S. policy not to intervene militarily thus far is based on his desire to solve the problem as a global community. "It's a world problem ... when tens of thousands of people are being slaughtered, including innocent women and children," Obama said.

Netanyahu said the two leaders discussed Syria during their private meeting earlier. He said the two countries share a goal of preventing Syria's weapons arsenal from falling into the hands of terrorists.

Obama said the United States shares the concern that the weapons could be transferred to a group like Hezbollah and used against Israel. "The Assad regime must understand that they will be held accountable for the use of chemical weapons or their transfer to terrorists," Obama said.

The president's first comments on the reports came shortly after the U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, told Congress of an untenable situation in Syria as the civil war grinds into its third year. The United Nations has estimated 70,000 have been killed, more than 1 million refugees have fled to neighboring countries and 2.5 million have been displaced internally.

The Syrian people "face a new level of ruthlessness from the Assad regime, which is raining Scud missiles down on residential neighborhoods, destroying hospitals and schools, and sending its thugs rampaging through the streets to terrorize their fellow citizens. The carnage is appalling," Ford said.

He insisted that the ideal outcome is a "negotiated political transition" to the crisis without Assad.

Ford said the military balance is turning against the Assad regime, which has lost some critical strategic locations such as the borders with Turkey and Iraq. The ambassador also said there has been heavy fighting in Damascus "right up close to where the president lives."

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