"Washington is considering a no-fly zone to help (President Bashar) Assad's opponents," one diplomat said. He said it would be limited "time-wise and area-wise", without giving details.
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On Thursday, US officials announced that the administration has concluded that Assad's regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, against the opposition seeking to overthrow him.
The officials said earlier intelligence assessments that indicated Assad likely used such weapons had now been corroborated.
Obama. To arm rebels? (Photo: AP)
Syria's foreign ministry said the United States was lying about the chemical weapons to give it an excuse to intervene in the country's two-year-old civil war.
"The White House...relied on fabricated information in order to hold the Syrian government responsible for using these weapons, despite a series of statements that confirmed that terrorist groups in Syria have chemical weapons," it said.
"The United States, in resorting to a shameful use of pretexts in order allow President Obama's decision to arm the Syrian opposition, shows that it has flagrant double standards in the way it deals with terrorism."
Meanwhile, France said that establishing a no-fly zone in Syria was unlikely for now because of opposition from some members of the United Nations Security Council.
"The problem with this type of measure is that it can only be put in place with approval from the international community," French foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot told journalists.
"A decision from the United Nations Security Council is needed, and not just any decision," he said. A Chapter 7 resolution authorizing military action was needed and that was unlikely to be passed, he said.
White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said in statement that President Obama has decided to provide direct non-lethal assistance to Syria’s Supreme Military Council.
Syrians protest against US inaction (Photo: Reuters)
"The Assad regime should know that its actions have led us to increase the scope and scale of assistance that we provide to the opposition, including direct support to the SMC," Rhodes said. "These efforts will increase going forward."
The deputy national security advisor also confirmed that the use of chemical weapons "is a red line for the United States," but stopped short of saying whether Obama will prescribe taking any forceful action against the Assad regime.
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