The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

August 23, 2013

Obama: Syria attack a 'big event of grave concern'

— AUBURN, N.Y. (AP) — President Barack Obama says a possible chemical weapons attack in Syria this week is a "big event of grave concern" that has hastened the timeframe for determining a U.S. response.

"This is something that is going to require America's attention," Obama said during an interview broadcast Friday.

However, the president said the notion that the U.S. alone can end Syria's bloody civil war is "overstated" and made clear he would seek international support before taking large-scale action.

"If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it, do we have the coalition to make it work," he said in the interview on CNN's "New Day" show. "Those are considerations that we have to take into account."

Obama's comments on Syria were his first since Wednesday's alleged chemical weapons attack on the eastern suburbs of Damascus that killed at least 100 people. While he appeared to signal some greater urgency in responding, his comments were largely in line with his previous statements throughout the two-year conflict.

The president said the U.S. is still seeking conclusive evidence that chemical weapons were used this week. Such actions, he said, would be troubling and would be detrimental to "some core national interests that the United States has, both in terms of us making sure that weapons of mass destruction are not proliferating, as well as needing to protect our allies, our bases in the region."

Wednesday's attack came as a United Nations team was on the ground in Syria investigating earlier chemical weapons attacks. Obama has warned that the use of the deadly gases would cross a "red line," but the U.S. response to the confirmed attacks earlier this year has been minimal.

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