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Cameron and Obama discuss Syria as Pentagon awaits orders - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A file picture dated 13 May 2013 shows British Prime Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama holding a joint news conference following their bilateral meeting, in the East Room of the White House, in Washington DC, USA. EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

A file photo dated May 13, 2013, shows British prime minister David Cameron and US president Barack Obama holding a joint news conference following their bilateral meeting in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., USA. (EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS)

Amman, Washington and London, Asharq Al-Awsat—US president Barack Obama and British prime minister David Cameron have discussed Wednesday’s chemical attack in Syria, which the opposition has said killed 1,300 people. The two leaders spoke on the telephone for 40 minutes on Saturday and threatened “serious” action if the use of chemical weapons is proven.

On Sunday, the BBC reported that Cameron and Obama “reiterated that significant use of chemical weapons would merit a serious response from the international community and both have tasked officials to examine all the options,” adding that the two men had agreed it was “vital that the world upholds the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons and deters further outrages.”

Meanwhile, President Obama held a meeting on Saturday morning with his national security advisers to discuss the options available to deal with events in Syria. The meeting is understood to have included discussion of a “Kosovo scenario”: multilateral military action without UN approval, as a Russian veto would be expected.

An unnamed White House official speaking to the French news agency AFP said: “We have a number of options on the table and we will move swiftly to make decisions which are in our national interest.”

The official added that Obama had ordered US intelligence agencies to gather evidence on the events in Syria, and that “when all facts are available, a decision will be made on how to respond.”

The official spoke a few hours after US defense secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters that the Pentagon was “positioning naval forces and assets” in the Mediterranean to give President Obama more options should a military operation be judged necessary in Syria.

A defense official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, said the USS Mahan, a destroyer armed with both air-to-air and cruise missiles, was on its way back to its home base in Virginia when the commander of the US Sixth Fleet decided to keep it in the region. The USS Mahan will increase the number of destroyers in the Mediterranean to four, joining USS Ramage, USS Barry and USS Gravely. All four have cruise missile capability.

Meanwhile, a military meeting will be held in Jordan in the next few days that will include 10 Arab and foreign countries. It will be attended by the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, and the chiefs of staff of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Jordan.

A senior Jordanian military official said in a statement to the press yesterday that the meeting will provide an opportunity for the participating countries to discuss issues related to the security of the region and the events in Syria. The discussion will also include “ways of cooperation between these countries and Jordan to achieve peace and security for Jordan and its citizens.”

The Jordanian minister of information and government spokesman told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the government and all its military and civilian institutions will take measures to deal with the repercussions of events in Syria, especially that there is an international investigation into the use of chemical weapons.”

Another Jordanian official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Jordan was annoyed at the international community’s ignorance of the effects of the events in the region and the reluctance to help solve the crisis,” adding that he ‘hoped the meeting would help draw the world’s attention to the crisis in Jordan caused by the events taking place around it, especially the Syrian issue.”