WASHINGTON, August 26 (RIA Novosti) – US Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday blamed the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad for the “cowardly” chemical weapons attack in a rebel stronghold near Damascus last week, and said the United States and its allies were preparing a response.
“The reported number of victims… and first-hand accounts strongly indicate that chemical weapons were used in Syria,” Kerry told a news briefing in Washington, five days after the attack in which the medical charity Doctors Without Borders said 355 people were killed.
“Moreover, we know the Syrian regime maintains custody of these weapons, has the capacity to do this with rockets, and is determined to clear the opposition from the very places where the attacks took place,” Kerry said, adding that the United States has more information about the attack that it will “provide in the days ahead.”
Kerry called the attack a “moral obscenity” and “a cowardly crime,” and accused Assad’s regime of making a “cynical attempt” to cover it up by barring immediate access to the site of the attack to a team of UN investigators.
“I made it clear to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem that if Syria had nothing to hide, their response would be to give unrestricted and immediate access to the UN investigators, but instead for five days, they refused access to the site of the attack that would allegedly exonerate them,” Kerry said.
“Make no mistake, President Obama believes there must be accountability for the use of the world’s most heinous weapons against the world’s most vulnerable people,” Kerry said.
Shortly after the Kerry speech, White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “What we are talking about … is a response to the clear violation of an international norm and it is profoundly in the interest of the United States and of the international community that that violation of an international norm be responded to.”
Obama is discussing “a range of options” for Syria, including military intervention, with his national security team, but has not yet made a decision on what action the United States will take, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters after Kerry’s speech.
Obama said previously that the US would intervene in the Syrian conflict in the event of a chemical attack. British media reported the country’s forces are already preparing for a joint naval operation with the US against Assad’s forces.
Kerry’s statement came hours after a UN team in Syria came under attack from sniper fire while going to investigate the chemical weapons attack.
Assad has denied launching last week’s chemical attack.