US President Barack Obama has revealed that Washington is considering "all options" in its Syria policy, particularly in light of evidence of use of chemical weapons. Meanwhile, there were informal talks at the UN.
Arriving at the beginning of a visit to Mexico on Thursday evening, Obama confirmed comments earlier in the day by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who said that arming the rebels was an option that the US was considering along with its allies.
Obama said his administration was "continually evaluating the situation on the ground," following reports that chemical weapons were used by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"As we've seen evidence of further bloodshed, potential use of chemical weapons inside of Syria, what I've said is that we're going to look at all options," Obama said.
However, the president added that his team was proceeding cautiously, being aware that introducing more weapons to the country might worsen the situation.
"We want to make sure that we look before we leap and that what we're doing is actually helpful to the situation, as opposed to making it more deadly or more complex," Obama said.
Anxiety over al Qaeda links
The US is understood to be wary of handing over weapons to the Syrian rebels, fearing that they may find their way into the wrong hands. Of particular concern is the al Nusra front, which has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda.
Hagel had made his comments about weapons at a Pentagon press conference, accompanied by British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond.
"Arming the rebels - that's an option," said Hagel. "You look at and rethink all options. It doesn't mean you do or you will. It doesn't mean that the president has decided on anything."
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon discussed the crisis with major powers on Thursday.
UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said the five veto-wielding members of the Security Council - Britain, China, France, Russia and the US - had all been invited to the informal meeting.
"He (Ban) briefed them on the latest developments relating to the chemical weapons investigation mission," said Nesirky, who added that "possible diplomatic moves to end the crisis" had also been discussed.
Envoy poised to resign?
The possible resignation of UN and Arab League peace envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, was among the issues broached. Diplomatic sources have claimed that Brahimi intends to quit because of his mounting frustration about the deadlock that prevails in the UN Security Council, with China and Russia vetoing successive resolutions against Damascus.
The death of a Turkish border guard at the Syrian border on Wednesday added to concerns Syria's violence is spilling over to affect the whole region. A group of armed men were understood to have opened fire at a checkpoint as a number of Syrians tried to cross the border.
The United Nations claims that the conflict has claimed more than 70,000 lives in more than two years of fighting, with more than 300,000 Syrians fleeing to Turkey.
rc/ jm (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)