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US: More evidence of gas weapons needed

05 June 2013, 10:12

Washington - The White House said Tuesday that more corroboration was needed that Syrian forces had used chemical weapons, after France said it had proof such arms had been deployed in the war.

President Barack Obama's administration faced new pressure to act on a perceived violation of its "red line" stating President Bashar al-Assad must not use chemical weapons, following new information released in Paris.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Tuesday, citing tests carried out by a French laboratory, that sarin was used "several times in a localized manner" but did not give details of where, when or by whom it was used.

White House spokesman Jay Carney did not give a definitive response to the French claim, but said Washington was working with France, Britain and the Syrian opposition to probe the possible use of chemical weapons.

"I would note that the French report that you're citing said that more work needs to be done to establish who is responsible for the use and the amount that was used and more details about the circumstances around it," Carney told a reporter.

"As the president made clear, we need to expand the evidence we have, we need to make it reviewable, we need to have it corroborated before we make any decisions based on the clear violation that use of chemicals would represent by the Syrian regime."

Despite warning Syria that the use of chemical weapons would be a "game changer," Obama has said that he cannot make decisions based on "perceived" violations of US red lines and needs definitive proof.

Obama, who has pulled US troops out of Iraq and will withdraw combat troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2014, has been reluctant to become directly embroiled in the war in Syria, despite rising political pressure.

Carney also lashed the Assad regime Tuesday for refusing to allowing International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRS) officials into the strategic town of Qusayr to aid trapped civilians.

"We are deeply concerned by the continued fighting in Qusayr and condemn the indiscriminate killing of civilians by Assad's forces and his proxies, including Hezbollah fighters," Carney said.

"The regime's siege of Qusayr has created a dire humanitarian situation, with severe shortages of food, water and medicine."

Carney also raised disquiet about the recent spillover of violence into Lebanon, which he said could spark risks of regional instability.

He said Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah, was playing a dangerous game by sending fighters to support Assad in Syria.

"Hassan Nasrallah is risking Lebanon's stability and the security of the Lebanese people in order to preserve Bashar al-Assad's rule," Carney said.

"We reaffirm our support for Lebanon's policy of dissociation from the conflict in Syria and urge all parties to avoid actions that will involve the Lebanese people in the conflict."



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