Obama said the United States, along with United Nations inspectors, were gathering information on the attack, but that preliminary signs point to a "big event of grave concern."
"It is very troublesome," he said. "That starts getting to some core national interests that the United States has, both in terms of us making sure that weapons of mass destruction are not proliferating, as well as needing to protect our allies, our bases in the region."
CNN Exclusive Obama: Syria will 'require America's attention'
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York 21 August 2013
Secretary-General, ‘Shocked’ by Reports from Syria, Reiterates that Any Use of Chemical Weapons Would Violate International Humanitarian Law
The following statement was issued today by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:
The Secretary-General is shockedto hear the reports of the alleged use today of chemical weapons in the suburbs of Damascus.
Professor Åke Sellström and his team are currently in the Syrian Arab Republic to investigate the alleged use of chemical weapons reported by the Government of Syria at Khan al-Assal, as well as two other allegations of the use of chemical weapons reported by Member States. According to the agreement reached in Damascus in July, the two parties are discussing, in parallel, other allegations and their related sites.
The United Nations mission to investigate allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria is following the current situation in Syria carefully, and remains fully engaged in the investigation process that is mandated by the Secretary General. Professor Sellström is in discussions with the Syrian Government on all issues pertaining to the alleged use of chemical weapons, including this most recent reported incident.
The Secretary-General is aware that a number of Member States, the Arab League and the European Union have expressed grave concern about the most recent reports of the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria. The Secretary-General reaffirms his determination to ensure a thorough investigation of the reported alleged incidents that are brought to his attention by Member States.
The Secretary-General reiterates that any use of chemical weapons by any side under any circumstances would violate international humanitarian law.
PARIS — As Western powers pressed Syria to allow United Nations inspectors to examine the site of a possible poison gas attack outside the capital, Damascus, France said on Thursday that outside powers should respond “with force” if the use of chemical weapons was confirmed.The allegations of a gas attack were particularly jarring because a team sent by the United Nations is already in Damascus to investigate chemical strikes reportedly waged earlier in the war. The United States, the European Union and other world powers called for the investigators to visit the site of Wednesday’s attack, which news reports said took place only a 15-minute drive from the inspectors’ hotel...In Paris, Mr. Fabius’s remarks were made a day after diplomatic moves at the United Nations Security Council in New York produced a limited response to the claims by opposition forces on Wednesday. Their charges that scores if not hundreds of people had perished in the attack were supported by copious, if unverified, video images.
In an emergency session, the Security Council called for a prompt investigation of the allegations and a cease-fire in the conflict, but it took no further action. Mr. Fabius said that if the Security Council could not reach a decision, then action would have to be taken “in other ways,” which he did not identify.