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Hagel: Claims Syria Used Chemical Weapons Are 'Suspicions'

NPR icon by Eyder Peralta
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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday tried to tone down Israeli claims that the Syrian government has been using chemical weapons.

Chemical weapons use is important, because the United Staes has repeatedly said their use marks a "red line" in the conflict. President Obama and the United Nations have warned President Bashar Assad not to use them.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

"'Suspicions are one thing, evidence is another,' Hagel said in Cairo, his latest stop in a weeklong Mideast swing. 'I think we have to be very careful here before we draw any conclusions based on real intelligence.'

"Hagel stressed that he wasn't questioning the Israeli assessment, which came in a speech Tuesday by Brig. Gen. Itai Brun, Israel's top military intelligence analyst. Brun said the findings were based on reports that victims of the attacks in Aleppo and Damascus, Syria's largest cities, had constricted pupils and were foaming at the mouth."

As Greg noted yesterday, the United States has said it was investigating chemical weapons use, but they have not "accused Syria of using chemical weapons."

USA Today has a bit more on what Hagel said:

"Israeli officials did not tell Hagel about their finding of chemical-weapon use when he met with officials there earlier this week, Hagel said.

"'I guess it wasn't complete,' Hagel said.

"They did speak in more general terms about Syria's chemical weapons, Hagel said. A key concern is that terrorists might obtain them.

"Hagel would not offer a timeline for completion of the U.S. assessment."

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