US says Syrian use of chemical weapons likely

White House says spy agencies believe Damascus has used sarin gas on a “small scale” but further evidence is required.

The US has said chemical weapons use would be a ‘red line,’ possibly triggering military action in the conflict [AFP]

April 25,2013 (Aljazeera) The White House has said that Syria has likely used chemical weapons against rebel forces on a “small scale,” but emphasised US intelligence services were still not 100 percent sure.

Thursday’s announcement comes as US spy agencies investigated reports from Syrian opposition groups that President Bashar al-Assad’s forces had used Sarin gas during the two-year-old conflict.

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel first announced the assessment during a visit to Abu Dhabi on Thursday, saying the “decision to reach this conclusion was made within the past 24 hours”.

Later on Thursday, Caitlin Hayden, National Security Council spokeswoman, said: “Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin.

“Given the stakes involved, and what we have learned from our own recent experience, intelligence assessments alone are not sufficient,” Hayden however cautioned.

Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from Washington, said that the White House had previously warned that chemical weapons used in Syria would be a “red line,” possibly triggering military action in the country’s ongoing civil war.

However, Fisher added, that the White House still needs “concrete and verifiable” evidence auch weapons were used, “because at the moment it’s just an intelligence assessment and as we know the Americans have been burned by their intelligence assessments in the past”.

 

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