By Lara Seligman - 08/26/13 01:03 PM EDT
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday that the United States would only take action on Syria in concert with the international community — and with legal justification — after rebel forces accused Syrian President Bashar Assad of using chemical weapons in attacks near Damascus last week.
“We are analyzing the intelligence. And we will get the facts. And if there is any action taken, it will be in concert with the international community and within the framework of legal justification.”
Hagel would not discuss the likelihood of a U.S. military response.
Hagel planned to consult with his British and French counterparts about the rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria, a senior U.S. official told Reuters.
International inspectors examining the allegations of chemical weapons were shot at on Monday, the United Nations said.
The team was on its way to the Damascus suburb where more than 1,300 people were allegedly killed last week in poison gas attacks by Syrian government troops.
The Defense secretary's remarks came as Syrian President Bashar Assad warned a U.S. military intervention in the country's deepening civil war would fail and denied reports that his forces used chemical weapons against his own people.
“Failure awaits the United States as in all previous wars it has unleashed, starting with Vietnam and up to the present day,” he told the pro-Kremlin Izvestia newspaper in an interview published Monday.
Assad said reports that he had used chemical weapons last week in an attack on the outskirts of Damascus were “nonsense,” because government forces had been close to the area where troops were said to have fired poison gas projectiles.
“Would any state use chemical or any other weapons of mass destruction in a place where its own forces are concentrated? That would go against elementary logic,” Assad said. “So, accusations of this kind are entirely political and the reason for them is the government forces' series of victories over the terrorists.”