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FULL UPDATE: Information on use of chemical weapons by Syria's Assad fabricated - senior Russian lawmaker
A senior Russian lawmaker said on Friday that information on the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces was fabricated and suggested the United States would use it to justify intervention in the conflict.
"Information about the use by Assad of chemical weapons has been fabricated in the same place as the lies about (Saddam) Hussein's weapons of mass destruction," Alexei Pushkov, head of the foreign policy committee in the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, said on Twitter. "Obama is taking the same path as George Bush."
A U.S. official said on Thursday that President Barack Obama has authorized sending U.S. weapons to Syrian rebels for the first time, after the White House said it has proof the Syrian government had used chemical weapons against opposition forces.
See More Updates After The Break
US intends to discuss use of chemical weapons in Syria with Russia at G8 summit
The US intends to discuss the topic of chemical weapons in Syria with Russia in the UN and at the G8 summit, US President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs Ben Rods told journalists. He said that Washington has given Moscow the available data on the subject.
Rods said that the US would continue consultations with Russia in the UN and G8 framework to make headway. He said that the US believes that supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad without putting pressure on him to stop the violence is not in the world community interests.
US claims to have furnished Russia with proof of chemical weapons used in Syria
The US has furnished Russia with proof of chemical weapons used in Syria, US President’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Affairs Ben Rods told journalists.
Russia still does not agree that Bashar al-Assad should step down. However, our Russian colleagues are among those whom we passed our materials and opinions of using chemical weapons in Syria, Ben Rods said.
Syria's President Assad used chemical weapons against opposition - US officials
The United States working with European allies has concluded that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons against the rebels killing up to 150 people, a top US official said Thursday.
"Our intelligence community assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year," deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said.
He added that the "intelligence community estimates that 100 to 150 people have died from detected chemical weapons attacks in Syria to date."
Here's the full White House statement on Syria:
Statement by Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes on Syrian Chemical Weapons Use
At the President’s direction, the United States Government has been closely monitoring the potential use of chemical weapons within Syria. Following the assessment made by our intelligence community in April, the President directed the intelligence community to seek credible and corroborated information to build on that assessment and establish the facts with some degree of certainty. Today, we are providing an updated version of our assessment to Congress and to the public.
The Syrian government’s refusal to grant access to the United Nations to investigate any and all credible allegations of chemical weapons use has prevented a comprehensive investigation as called for by the international community. The Assad regime could prove that its request for an investigation was not just a diversionary tactic by granting the UN fact finding mission immediate and unfettered access to conduct on-site investigations to help reveal the truth about chemical weapons use in Syria. While pushing for a UN investigation, the United States has also been working urgently with our partners and allies as well as individuals inside Syria, including the Syrian opposition, to procure, share, and evaluate information associated with reports of chemical weapons use so that we can establish the facts and determine what took place.
Following a deliberative review, our intelligence community assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year. Our intelligence community has high confidence in that assessment given multiple, independent streams of information. The intelligence community estimates that 100 to 150 people have died from detected chemical weapons attacks in Syria to date; however, casualty data is likely incomplete. While the lethality of these attacks make up only a small portion of the catastrophic loss of life in Syria, which now stands at more than 90,000 deaths, the use of chemical weapons violates international norms and crosses clear red lines that have existed within the international community for decades. We believe that the Assad regime maintains control of these weapons. We have no reliable, corroborated reporting to indicate that the opposition in Syria has acquired or used chemical weapons.
The body of information used to make this intelligence assessment includes reporting regarding Syrian officials planning and executing regime chemical weapons attacks; reporting that includes descriptions of the time, location, and means of attack; and descriptions of physiological symptoms that are consistent with exposure to a chemical weapons agent. Some open source reports from social media outlets from Syrian opposition groups and other media sources are consistent with the information we have obtained regarding chemical weapons use and exposure. The assessment is further supported by laboratory analysis of physiological samples obtained from a number of individuals, which revealed exposure to sarin. Each positive result indicates that an individual was exposed to sarin, but it does not tell us how or where the individuals were exposed or who was responsible for the dissemination.
We are working with allies to present a credible, evidentiary case to share with the international community and the public. Since the creation of the UN fact finding mission, we have provided two briefings to Dr. Åke Sellström, the head of the mission. We will also be providing a letter to UN Secretary General Ban, calling the UN’s attention to our updated intelligence assessment and specific incidents of alleged chemical weapons use. We request that the UN mission include these incidents in its ongoing investigation and report, as appropriate, on its findings. We will present additional information and continue to update Dr. Sellström as new developments emerge.
The President has been clear that the use of chemical weapons – or the transfer of chemical weapons to terrorist groups – is a red line for the United States, as there has long been an established norm within the international community against the use of chemical weapons. Our intelligence community now has a high confidence assessment that chemical weapons have been used on a small scale by the Assad regime in Syria. The President has said that the use of chemical weapons would change his calculus, and it has. Our decision making has already been guided by the April intelligence assessment and by the regime’s escalation of horrific violence against its citizens. Following on the credible evidence that the regime has used chemical weapons against the Syrian people, the President has augmented the provision of non-lethal assistance to the civilian opposition, and also authorized the expansion of our assistance to the Supreme Military Council (SMC), and we will be consulting with Congress on these matters in the coming weeks. This effort is aimed at strengthening the effectiveness of the SMC, and helping to coordinate the provision of assistance by the United States and other partners and allies. Put simply, the Assad regime should know that its actions have led us to increase the scope and scale of assistance that we provide to the opposition, including direct support to the SMC. These efforts will increase going forward.
The United States and the international community have a number of other legal, financial, diplomatic, and military responses available. We are prepared for all contingencies, and we will make decisions on our own timeline. Any future action we take will be consistent with our national interest, and must advance our objectives, which include achieving a negotiated political settlement to establish an authority that can provide basic stability and administer state institutions; protecting the rights of all Syrians; securing unconventional and advanced conventional weapons; and countering terrorist activity.
US, Europe say Syria used chemical weapons against rebels
Syria has used chemical weapons against opposition forces, officials from the United States and Europe have concluded, according to a New York Times report on Thursday.
American and European intelligence analysts now believe that President Bashar al-Assad’s troops have used chemical weapons against rebel forces in the civil war in Syria, an assessment that will put added pressure on a deeply divided Obama administration to develop a response to a provocation that the president himself has declared a “red line.”
According to an internal memorandum circulating inside the government on Thursday, the “intelligence community assesses that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year.”
US military plan for arming Syrian rebels, calls for limited no-fly zone
A US military proposal for arming Syrian rebels also calls for a limited no-fly zone inside Syria that would be enforced from Jordanian territory to protect Syrian refugees and rebels who would train there, US officials said.
According to military planners, creating an area to train and equip rebel forces would require keeping Syrian aircraft well away from the Jordanian border. To do that, the military envisages creating a no-fly zone stretching up to 25 miles into Syria which would be enforced using aircraft flown from Jordanian bases and flying inside the kingdom.
US F-16s, Patriot missiles to stay in Jordan after drill - official
The United States will keep F-16 fighter jets and Patriot anti-missile weapons in Jordan after a joint military exercise ends this month, amid concerns over the raging civil war in neighboring Syria, a US defense official said Thursday.
The US administration, which is weighing a decision to arm Syria's rebels, also planned to keep a unit of US Marines on amphibious ships off the coast after consultations with Jordan's leadership, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters.
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