U.S. says Syrian offer on chemical site inspection is too late

WASHINGTON Sun Aug 25, 2013 10:46am EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has little doubt the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians last week, and any decision to open the site to U.N. inspectors was "too late to be credible," a senior official in the U.S. administration said on Sunday.

"Based on the reported number of victims, reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured, witness accounts, and other facts gathered by open sources, the U.S. intelligence community, and international partners, there is very little doubt at this point that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians in this incident," the official told Reuters.

The official made clear the Syrian government's agreement to let United Nations inspectors visit the site of an alleged chemical weapons attack was inadequate.

"At this juncture, any belated decision by the regime to grant access to the U.N. team would be considered too late to be credible, including because the evidence available has been significantly corrupted as a result of the regime's persistent shelling and other intentional actions over the last five days," the official said.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry said on Sunday it has agreed to allow U.N. inspectors access to sites in suburbs of Damascus where alleged chemical attacks occurred last week.

The U.S. official said the administration had seen reports that Syria would provide access on Monday, but said that if the government had nothing to hide, it would have allowed investigators to visit the site five days ago.

President Barack Obama is evaluating how to respond to the incident, the official said.

"We are continuing to assess the facts so the president can make an informed decision about how to respond to this indiscriminate use of chemical weapons."

Senior U.S. lawmakers called on Sunday for limited U.S. military action in response to the alleged chemical weapons attack.

"I certainly would do cruise missile strikes," said Eliot Engel, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Senator Bob Corker, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Fox News he thought Obama would "respond in a surgical way."

"I hope the president as soon as we get back to Washington will ask for authorization from Congress to do something in a very surgical and proportional way," he said.

Two other Republican senators, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, issued a statement calling for "stand-off" strikes, such as by cruise missiles, to degrade the government's air power and help establish "safe areas" on the ground.

(Reporting By Mark Felsenthal; Editing by David Brunnstrom)

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Comments (3)
westernshame wrote:
“At this juncture, any belated decision by the regime to grant access to the U.N. team would be considered too late to be credible, including because the evidence available has been significantly corrupted as a result of the regime’s persistent shelling and other intentional actions over the last five days,” the official said.”

interesting but if five days after the incident, it’s already too late to be credible, why pray tell were the UN inspectors there to inspect sites from months ago??

the only logical answer is that “someone” had previous knowledge of when and where this new incident was going to take place and the UN team was placed there on intentionally.

Aug 25, 2013 11:36am EDT  --  Report as abuse
musicmouse wrote:
‘help establish “safe areas” on the ground’

Safe for jihadists?

Does anyone remember how the US obstructed earlier investigation in Syria with its excessive demands? Obviously the US wasn’t interested in seeing its jihadi friends exposed as involved with chemical weapons.

Aug 25, 2013 1:23pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
SMHAL wrote:
What a joke, tissue samples were collected and the US “intelligence” community is able to determine from these samples that the Assad regime is the culprit? Ive been watching the British foreign secretary Hague practically foaming at the mouth since this story first broke, at least he didnt isn’t trying to bamboozle the world like our own nobel peace prize winning “president”. I agree with westernshame, this was pre-planned and executed by “someone” probably not the Assad regime though.

Aug 25, 2013 7:42pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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