“If there is action taken, it must be clearly defined what the objective is and why” and based on “clear facts,” the senior administration official said on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss internal deliberations publicly.
President Barack Obama is weighing a limited response that focuses on punishing the Syrian government for violating international agreements that bar the use of chemical weapons. Any U.S. military action, officials say, would not be aimed at toppling the Assad regime or vastly altering the course of Syria’s civil war, which has already claimed 100,000 dead.
As the U.S., France and Britain push for military action, the U.N. secretary-general urged restraint to give U.N. inspectors time to finish their investigation, which began Monday.
“Let them conclude ... their work for four days and then we will have to analyze scientifically” their findings and send a report to the U.N. Security Council, Ban said. The U.N. said the analysis would be done “as quickly as possible.”
Syria’s Ambassador to the U.N., Bashar Ja’afari, said he sent Ban a letter demanding that the inspectors extend their investigation to what he described as three chemical weapons attacks against Syrian soldiers in the Damascus suburbs. He said the attacks occurred on Aug. 22, 24, and 25, and that dozens of Syrian soldiers are current being treated for inhaling nerve gases.
Ja’afari also blamed the rebels for any chemical weapons attack, saying “the Syrian government is innocent of these allegations.”
Ban pleaded for more time to give diplomacy another chance to end Syria’s conflict. Marking the centenary of a venue for peaceful conflict resolution in The Hague, Netherlands, he said: “Here in the Peace Palace, let us say: Give peace a chance. Give diplomacy a chance. Stop fighting and start talking.”