Published — Thursday 2 May 2013
Last update 2 May 2013 2:44 am
WASHINGTON/BEIRUT/AMMAN: President Barack Obama is signaling that he would consider US military action against Syria if his administration obtains “hard, effective evidence” of chemical weapons use by the Assad government.
But Obama made it clear he would prefer to have the backing of the international community before escalating American involvement in the Syria’s fierce civil war.
In a White House news conference Tuesday, Obama appealed for patience, saying he still needs more conclusive evidence about how and when chemical weapons detected by US intelligence agencies were used. But if those questions get answered, Obama says he would consider options the Pentagon and intelligence community have readied for him in the event Syria crossed his chemical weapons “red line.”
Syria’s opposition yesterday denounced what it called “threats” by the head of Hezbollah, and warned against any intervention by the Lebanese group or by Iran in the Syrian conflict.
The speech was also criticized by Lebanese opposition leader Saad Hariri, who accused Hezbollah of “leading Lebanon to ruin” by intervening in Syria.
“The Syrians and the Lebanese hoped... that the Hezbollah leadership would stop their attacks on Homs and Damascus and take into account the gravity of the situation in the region,” the Syrian National Coalition said in a statement.
“But they heard nothing but threats... and warnings against setting the region on fire and an admission of their interference in Syrian affairs,” the key opposition movement said.
On Tuesday, Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged that members of the group are fighting inside Syria and suggested Iran and other states could intervene to support the Damascus regime against rebels.
President Bashar Assad has “true friends in the region who will not allow Syria to fall into the hands of the United States, Israel and ‘takfiri’ groups,” he said of groups battling the regime.
“If the situation gets more dangerous, states, resistance movements and other forces will be obliged to intervene effectively in the confrontation on the ground,” he added.
“You will not be able to bring down the regime militarily,” Nasrallah told Syria’s rebel forces. “The battle is still long.”
The Syrian opposition has long accused Hezbollah of dispatching fighters to fight alongside government forces, including in Qusayr in central Homs province and at the Sayyeda Zeinab shrine near Damascus.
The Coalition called on the Lebanese government “to immediately put an end to Hezbollah military operations in the regions close to the Syrian border.”
Hariri slammed Nasrallah in a statement, saying he “gave himself the right to expand Hezbollah’s operations from southern Lebanon to Qusayr and Sayyeda Zeinab in Syria.”
“Nasrallah is telling us that the (Lebanese) state... will forever be a hostage in the hands of Hezbollah,” he added, accusing the group of “leading Lebanon to ruin.”
He called on Lebanon’s citizens, “whatever their positions, to assume their historic responsibilities by standing against this project and using all democratic methods to reject it.”
Meanwhile, Syrian activists are reporting that that several rockets have fallen on a popular Damascus neighborhood.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the rockets fell on the Bab Mesalla neighborhood in central Damascus. Initial information indicates that there were casualties, but the number could not be obtained immediately, the Observatory said.
It said police sealed off the area, which has restaurants, shops and a main public transportation station linking Damascus with the southern provinces of Daraa and Sweida.
Meanwhile, the Observatory said that a bomb exploded in a nearby neighborhood, near police headquarters on Khalid Bin Walid Street. It said several people, including children, were wounded in the blast.
No other details were immediately available