President Barack Obama said in an interview aired on Friday that the international community needs to find out more about whether chemical weapons have been used in Syria, and called on the Assad government to allow a full investigation.
"What we've seen indicates that this is clearly a big event, of grave concern," Obama said in an interview with CNN.
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"We're moving through the UN to try to prompt better action from them and we've called on the Syrian government to allow an investigation of the site because UN inspectors are on the ground right now. We don't expect cooperation, given their past history," the president said.
Obama said a chemical weapons attack would be "very troublesome."
"That starts getting 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. This is something that is going to require America's attention and hopefully the entire international community's attention," he said.
But Obama said the human and financial costs of the ongoing war in Afghanistan have made him cautious about moving forward too quickly.
"The notion that the US can somehow solve what is a sectarian complex problem inside of Syria sometimes is overstated," he said.
Syrian activists say they are smuggling out body tissue samples from victims of an alleged chemical weapons attack outside Damascus and are trying to get them to a team of United Nations inspectors staying in a hotel a few miles away.
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