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’
Mr Obama made his surprise announcement in a gamble that will test his ability to project American strength abroad and deploy his own power at home.
Before he put on the brakes, the path had been cleared for a US assault. Navy ships were in place and awaiting orders to launch missiles, and UN inspectors had left Syria after gathering evidence of a chemical weapons attack that US officials say killed 1,429 people in rebel-held areas.
The United States had been expected to lead the strike soon, backed up by its NATO allies Britain and France. However, the Westminster parliament voted last Thursday against any British involvement and France said on Sunday it would await the U.S. Congress’s decision.
“France cannot go it alone,” interior minister Manuel Valls told Europe 1 radio. “We need a coalition.”
France, which ruled Syria for more than two decades until the 1940s, has, like the United States and Britain, the military strength to blitz the country in response to the poison gas attack on areas around Damascus, which the Syrian government has accused the rebels of staging.
Mr Valls said Mr Obama’s announcement had created “a new situation” which meant France would have to wait “for the end of this new phase”.
President Francois Hollande reaffirmed to Mr Obama yesterday his will to punish Syria but has come under increasing pressure to put the intervention to parliament.
Last month’s attack was the deadliest incident of the Syrian civil war and the world’s worst use of chemical arms since Iraq’s Saddam Hussein gassed thousands of Kurds in 1988.
Mr Obama’s credibility had already been called into question for not punishing Assad over earlier alleged gas attacks, and he is under pressure to act now that he believes Damascus has crossed what he once described as a “red line”.
In the Vatican City, Pope Francis called for a negotiated solution to the conflict in Syria and announced he would lead a worldwide day of prayer for peace in the country on Saturday.
Syria and its main ally, Russia, say rebels carried out the gas attack as a ploy to draw in foreign military intervention. Moscow has repeatedly used its U.N. Security Council veto to block action against Syria and says any attack would be illegal and only inflame the civil war there.
“I am convinced that (the chemical attack) is nothing more than a provocation by those who want to drag other countries into the Syrian conflict,” Russian president Vladimir Putin said last night.