Syria Crossed “Red Line” By Using Nerve Gas– Rice

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Updated June 14, 2013

The United States is considering a no-fly zone in Syria, potentially its first direct intervention into the two-year-old civil war, Western diplomats said today, after the White House said Syria had crossed a “red line” by using nerve gas.

Speaking to reporters at the United Nations headquarters in New York, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice, said the U.S. intelligence community “has high confidence that chemical weapons, including sarin, have been used by the government against the opposition, on multiple occasions, over the course of the last year, on a small scale.”

“This is a conclusion that we are firm in, as you will recall, we’ve taken two months to reach this through a very careful and deliberative process from the very first evidence that we described in April and we are very confident in that assessment,” Rice added.

After months of deliberation, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration said on Thursday it would now arm rebels, having obtained proof the Syrian government used chemical weapons against fighters trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

Two senior Western diplomats said Washington is looking into a no-fly zone close to Syria’s southern border with Jordan.

Rice confirmed to reporters on Friday that no decision had been reached, saying: “On the issue of a no-fly zone, we have been clear that we are not excluding options, but at this stage no decision has been taken and as my colleagues at Washington described at some length yesterday, that option has some downsides and limitations that we’re very well aware of and will factor into any decision. What further steps we take will be a function of what we determine is necessary, what advances our principal goal of achieving a negotiated political settlement and what is consistent with U.S. interests.”

Imposing a no-fly zone could require the United States to destroy Syria’s sophisticated Russian-built air defenses, thrusting it into the war with the sort of action NATO used to help topple Muammar Gaddafi in Libya two years ago.

Washington says it has not ruled out a no fly zone but has played down the prospect and said a decision is not “imminent”.

Any such move would also come up against a potential veto from Assad’s ally Russia in the U.N. Security Council. The Kremlin has dismissed U.S. evidence of Assad’s use of nerve gas, to which Rice on Friday responded, saying, “We have had multiple discussions with the Russians. They are aware of the evidence. They can characterize it whatever way they choose.

France said a no-fly zone would be impossible without U.N. Security Council authorisation, which made it unlikely for now.

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