Obama: Syrian gov't carried out chemical attack
President Barack Obama is declaring unequivocally that the United States has "concluded" that the Syrian government carried out a deadly chemical weapons attack on civilians last week.
Obama did not present any direct evidence to back up his assertions. He said he is still evaluating options for possible military retaliation, but vowed that any American response would send a "strong signal" to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Obama said in a PBS interview that the U.S. has concluded that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack and "there need to be international consequences."
The president says he's not seeking a lengthy, open-ended conflict in Syria, indicating that any U.S. response would be limited in scope.
While the Obama administration insists the Syrian government must be punished, U.S. officials are still assessing how best to do it.
Two senior administration officials say they are grappling with what type of military strike might deter future chemical weapons attacks while also trying to assess how President Bashar Assad would respond.
In the meantime, U.S. intelligence agencies are preparing a report laying out the evidence against Assad's government in chemical weapons attacks on civilians. A classified version would be sent to key members of Congress and a declassified version would be released publicly.
However, the White House says it's already convinced the Assad regime was behind the attacks and is rounding up support from international partners as it plans a possible military response.
One senior official says if action is taken, the objective and reasons must be "clearly defined" and based on "clear facts."
Meantime, anti-regime activists in Syria say members of a U.N. team of chemical weapons experts have been working in a large Damascus suburb that was affected by last week's alleged chemical attack.
The activists say the experts crossed into rebel-held territory, and were accompanied by members of the Free Syrian Army, the main armed opposition group. Today's visit is the second by the U.N. inspectors to areas that were said to have been targeted by the attack.
The visit comes as the U.N.'s envoy to Syria says evidence suggests that some kind of "substance" was used in the attack.