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Syria attack: Bashar al-Assad's regime likely behind chemical attack, U.S. says

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WASHINGTON (WJLA/AP) - President Barack Obama says he hasn't made a final decision about a military strike against Syria. But he says he's considering a limited and narrow action in response to a chemical weapons attack that he says Syria's government carried out last week.

More cries of pain are pouring out from the war-torn country. A student was among dozens of children scarred from Monday’s attacks, and opposition activists say a substance similar to napalm was dropped on a school – leaving seven dead and several more with burns across their bodies.

The U.S. military is standing by, ready to halt the horror, as the Obama administration is now saying that at least 1,400 Syrians were killed in last week’s gas attack.

The big question is whether the U.S. will go at it alone after lawmakers in the U.K. voted to stay out of the conflict.

The United Nations’ former U.S. ambassador says support is key, while Secretary of State John Kerry fears an ever greater disaster if the U.S. chooses not to strike.

"It is about Hezbollah and North Korea and every other terrorist group or dictator that might ever again contemplate the use of weapons of mass destruction. Will they remember that the Assad regime was stopped from those weapons' current or future use, or will they remember that the world stood aside and created impunity?"

Meanwhile, Obama says that attack was a challenge to the world and threatens U.S. national security. He spoke before meeting at the White House with three Baltic leaders, and said he recognizes the world and the U.S. are war-weary in the face of potential military action against Syria.

But he says the United States has an obligation "as a leader in the world" to hold countries accountable if they violate international norms.

Obama says he has strong preference for multilateral action. But he says, quote, "we don't want the world to be paralyzed."

Regarding the U.N., Obama says, quote, "there is an incapacity for the Security Council to move forward."

Despite a vote in Britain against taking action in Syria, Obama indicates that France is with him. 

Islamic Society of North America participants react

At the D.C. Convention Center Friday, residents from the D.C. area and visitors from across the nation gathered for the 50th annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America.

Like voters nationwide, Islamic-Americans are divided over whether the U.S. should take action against Syria.

Prince George’s County resident Sadaf Khan's husband is in the U.S. Air Force based at Andrews. She worries about another possible U.S. military involvement.

“For the country, we already got out of a war and it's not going to be good,” Khan says. “And Syria is out of control.”
But Inas Dalloul believes the Syrian government went too far and thinks Obama should act.

I would hope he would target the Assad regime,” Dalloul, of Florida, says. “He's killing his own people. And it's more of a massacre than just a killing.”

Kerry weighs in

Earlier in the day, Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.S. knows based on intelligence that the Syrian regime carefully prepared for days to launch a chemical weapons attack.

Kerry says Syrian regime personnel were at the site of the attack for three days beforehand, making preparations.

He says regime elements were told to prepare by putting on gas masks.

Kerry says the U.S. also knows where the rockets were launched from. He says the rockets came from regime-controlled areas.

Kerry also says a senior regime official confirmed that the weapons were used and was afraid it would be discovered.

The U.S. is releasing a public report on intelligence gathered about last week's deadly attack. President Barack Obama is preparing for a possible military strike in response.

He said at least 1,429 people - including 426 children - were killed in the chemical weapons attack.

Kerry says the United Nations cannot tell the world anything about a chemical weapons attack the U.S. doesn't already know and hasn't already made public.

He says Obama will ensure the U.S. makes decisions on its own timeline, based on its own values and interests.

Kerry says U.N. investigators probing a chemical weapons attack are limited by a mandate to determine if an attack took place. He says they won't say who is responsible.

Obama has been seeking international support for a potential military strike against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

But the U.N. Security Council has not backed a strike.

Kerry says the U.N. cannot galvanize the world to act the way it should.

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