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The White House has concluded that there is “very little doubt” that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against its own people, increasing the likelihood of a response from the United States and its allies.
The assessment is based on a variety of intelligence and represents a broad consensus, according to a statement from a senior administration official who requested anonymity since the statement has not been released.
“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 statement said.
The White House said an offer from the Syrian government to allow U.N. inspectors to visit the site was provided too late.
“At this juncture, the belated decision by the regime to grant access to the UN team is 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 statement said.
The administration has said that the use of chemical weapons would be considered a red line that would trigger a response by the United States.
Quoting Syria state television, The Associated Press reported that the Syrian government agreed to allow the U.N. team to visit the locations near the capital of Damascus.
Traveling in Asia, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday the United States was still reviewing the intelligence to determine whether the Syrian government used chemical weapons in an attack last week that rebels said killed hundreds of civilians.
“We, along with our allies, are continuing to assess the intelligence and the specifics of that intelligence on the use of chemical weapons,” Hagel said.
Hagel said the Pentagon has presented President Obama with a range of options, and the Pentagon is prepared to act once a decision is made.