MANILA, Philippines (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday the Obama administration was consulting with allies to “further develop the facts” about last week’s alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria, and options for a response.
Speaking at a news conference in Manila, Hagel said the administration also would continue to seek input from members of Congress on how the U.S. should respond to the deadly attack.
Hagel said Thursday’s consultation by high-level Obama administration officials with congressional leaders was “not to convince anyone of anything.” He said it was intended as an update and a chance to solicit lawmakers’ views on possible U.S. military or other action.
“As we continue to consult with our allies, we’ll further develop the facts and intelligence on what happened,” he said.
President Barack Obama on Thursday prepared for the possibility of launching unilateral American military action against Syria within days. Asked what Syrian President Bashar Assad could do now to avoid a U.S. strike, Hagel said, “I have not been informed of any change in the Assad regime’s position on any issue.”
As for the British Parliament’s vote against British military action in Syria, Hagel said London has strongly and publicly condemned Syria’s alleged gas attacks against civilians.
“That vote in the parliament doesn’t change that,” he said.
“Every nation has a responsibility to make their own decisions, and we respect that of any nation. … We’ll continue to work with Britain and consult with Britain as we are with all our allies. As to international effort and collaboration, it is the goal of President Obama and our government that whatever decision is taken that it be an international collaboration and effort.”
He said the U.S. was going to keep talking to Britain and other nations on “ways forward together.”
Hagel was flying back to Washington later Friday.