Kerry says US has evidence of sarin gas use in Syria
Saudi minister calls for world community to take action that ‘puts a halt to the tragedy’
US President Barack Obama meets in the Situation Room with his national security advisors to discuss strategy in Syria. Photograph: Pete Souza/White House via Getty Images
US secretary of state John Kerry today asserted the United States has evidence of sarin gas use in Syria and that the “case is building” for a military attack.
He made the statement after US president Barack Obama delayed an imminent military strike by deciding to consult Congress.
Mr Kerry said the administration learned of the sarin use through samples of hair and blood provided to Washington by first responders in Damascus.
He also said he is confident that Congress will give Mr Obama its backing for a military strike against Syria. But the former senator also said the president has authority to act on his own if Congress doesn’t give its approval.
Saudi Arabia tonight called on the world community to take all necessary steps to deter Syrian government violence.
“The time has come to call on the world community to bear its responsibility and take the deterrent measure that puts a halt to the tragedy,” foreign minister Saud al-Faisal told an Arab League meeting in Cairo.
Meanwhile, former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani said the Syrian government, a strong ally of Tehran, had carried out chemical weapons attacks against its own people, the semi-official Iranian Labour News Agency reported today.
“The people have been the target of chemical attacks by their own government and now they must also wait for an attack by foreigners,” Mr Rafsanjani said. “The people of Syria have seen much damage in these two years.”
Syria today hailed an “historic American retreat” after Mr Obama’s decision to seek the approval of Congress before launching an attack.
As Mr Obama stepped back from the brink, France said it could not act alone in punishing president Bashar al-Assad over an alleged chemical weapons attack, making it the last remaining top Western ally to hesitate about bombing Syria.
“Obama announced yesterday, directly or through implication, the beginning of the historic American retreat,” Syria’s official al-Thawra newspaper said in a front-page editorial.
The US president last night said he would seek congressional consent before taking military action against Damascus for the August 21st attack which he blames on Assad’s forces - a decision likely to delay any strike for at least nine days.
Syria’s deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad denounced any armed Western move against his government. “A decision to wage war on Syria is a criminal decision and an incorrect decision. We are confident that we will be victorious,” he told reporters outside a hotel in Damascus.
However, Syria’s opposition coalition called on the US congress to grant approval for military action and said any intervention should be accompanied with more arms for the rebels.