WASHINGTON -- A senior administration official said Sunday there is "very little doubt" that a chemical weapon was used by the Syrian regime against civilians in an incident that killed at least 100 people last week, but added that the president had not yet decided how to respond.
The official said the U.S. intelligence community based its assessment given to the White House on "the reported number of victims, reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured," and witness accounts. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.
The official said the White House believes the Syrian government is continuing to bar a U.N. investigative team immediate access to the site of a reported Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs, in order to give the evidence of the attack time to degrade.
The official said the regime's continuing shelling of the site also further corrupts any available evidence of the attack.
Last Wednesday's purported chemical attack in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta has prompted U.S. naval forces to move closer to Syria. President Barack Obama met with his national security team Saturday to assess the intelligence and consider a U.S. military response, almost a year after warning the regime of Bashar Asad that chemical weapons use was a "red line" for the U.S.
The White House had concluded previously that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons in limited incidents, but last week's attack is suspected of being the deadliest single incident of a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people since March 2011.
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