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August 31, 2013

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Obama edges toward strike on Syria

WASHINGTON (AP) — Edging toward a punitive strike against Syria, President Barack Obama said Friday he is weighing “limited and narrow” action as the administration bluntly accused Bashar Assad’s government of launching a chemical weapons attack that killed at least 1,429 people — far more than previous estimates — including more than 400 children.

No “boots on the ground,” Obama said, seeking to reassure Americans weary after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

With France as his only major public ally, Obama told reporters he has a strong preference for multilateral action. He added, “frankly part of the challenge we end up with here is a lot of people think something should be done but nobody wants to do it.”

Halfway around the world, U.S. warships were in place in the Mediterranean Sea armed. They carried cruise missiles, long a first-line weapon of choice for presidents because they can find a target hundreds of miles distant without need of air cover or troops on the ground.

In what appeared increasingly like the pre-attack endgame, U.N. personnel dispatched to Syria carried out a fourth and final day of inspection as they sought to determine precisely what happened in last week’s attack. The international contingent arranged to depart on Saturday and head to laboratories in Europe with the samples they have collected.

UN chemical weapons inspectors to analyze samples from Syria

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — They’ve endured repeated delays, unrelenting scrutiny and even snipers’ bullets in Damascus. Now U.N. inspectors, who have been gathering evidence of a possible chemical weapons attack in Syria, are poised to return to the Netherlands in coming days, setting in motion a meticulous process of analyzing samples at specially accredited laboratories.

According to the team’s U.N. mandate, the analysis will establish if a chemical attack took place, but not who was responsible for a deadly Aug. 21 attack that Doctors Without Borders says killed 355 people and included the use of toxic gas. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that Washington knows, based on intelligence, that the Syrian regime carefully prepared for days to launch a chemical weapons attack.

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