By Karen DeYoung
The Washington Post
President Barack Obama said Wednesday that the United States is still investigating whether chemical weapons were used in Syria and reiterated his pledge that their use by the government of President Bashar Assad would be a "game changer" for U.S. policy.
"We have to make sure that we know exactly what happened, what was the nature of the incident, what we can document, what we can prove," Obama said at a news conference in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
"I won't make an announcement today about next steps, because I think we have to gather the facts," he said. In the past, Obama has called any use of such weapons by Assad a "red line."
Obama's statements came after the Syrian government and the opposition repeated their accusations that the other side used chemical weapons in an attack on a village near Aleppo on Tuesday. Both sides asked the United Nations to send a team to investigate the incident.
Although the facts have not yet been established, Obama said, he was "deeply skeptical of any claim that it was the opposition that used chemical weapons" because only the regime has the capacity to carry out such an attack. The rebels said the chemicals were delivered on a Scud missile.
Obama also defended his administration's reluctance to intervene directly to stop the slaughter in Syria, telling an Israeli reporter, "It is incorrect for you to say that we have done nothing."
The United States, he said, had helped mobilize the world to isolate Assad, provided hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian assistance, supported and recognized the Syrian opposition, and worked with other countries to "move towards a political transition."