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Kerry: Syria attack a moral obscenity

27 August 2013, 09:09

Washington - Secretary of State John Kerry says chemical weapons were used in Syria and is accusing President Bashar Assad of destroying evidence.

Ratcheting up criticism of Syria's alleged chemical weapons use, Kerry called last week's attack a "moral obscenity" that should shock the conscience of the world.

"The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity," said Kerry.

"This international norm cannot be violated without consequences," he said.

Officials said President Barack Obama has not decided how to respond to the use of deadly gases, a move the White House said last year would cross a "red line".

But the US, along with allies in Europe, appeared to be laying the groundwork for the most aggressive response since Syria's civil war began more than two years ago.

The US and its allies appear to be considering a response that would punish Assad for deploying deadly gases, not sweeping actions aimed at ousting Assad or strengthening rebel forces.

The focus of the internal debate underscores the scant international appetite for a large-scale deployment of forces in Syria and the limited number of other options that could significantly change the trajectory of the conflict.

The international community was moving ahead even as a United Nations team already on the ground in Syria collected evidence from last week's attack.

The US said Syria's delay in giving the inspectors access rendered their investigation meaningless and officials said the administration had its own intelligence confirming chemical weapons use.

"What is before us today is real and it is compelling," Kerry said. "Our understanding of what has already happened in Syria is grounded in facts."

He says the US has additional information about the attack and will make it public in the days ahead.

Kerry says shelling the affected area afterward was not the action of a government trying to cooperate with UN investigators trying to assess what happened.

Assad has denied launching a chemical attack.

- AP


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