WASHINGTON - U.S. intelligence officials sought today to determine whether Syria's government unleashed a deadly chemical weapons attack on its people. At the same time, the Obama administration prepared for a possible military response by moving naval forces closer to Syria.
Meeting on the issue today with his national security team, President Barack Obama received a detailed review of the range of options he has requested for the U.S. and its international partners to respond if the fact-finding process concludes that Syrian President Bashar Assad engaged in deadly chemical warfare, the White House said.
At the same time, Obama has emphasized that quick intervention in the years-old Syrian civil war was problematic because of the international considerations that should precede a military strike.
Obama discussed the situation in Syria by telephone with British Prime Minister David Cameron, the White House said. It was Obama's first known conversation with a foreign leader about Syria since the reports this week that hundreds of Syrians had been killed by the alleged chemical attack in a suburb of Damascus, the capital.
The White House said the two leaders expressed "grave concern" about the reported chemical weapons use, which both of their countries oppose.
A statement from Cameron's office at No. 10 Downing St. said the prime minister and Obama are concerned by "increasing signs" that this was "a significant chemical weapons attack" by the Syrian government against its people. Obama and Cameron "reiterated that significant use of chemical weapons would merit a serious response from the international community," according to the statement.