A woman and a child, injured in what the government said
was a chemical weapons attack, are treated at a hospital in
the Syrian city of Aleppo. REUTERS/George Ourfalian
The US ambassador to Syria said there is no evidence so
far to back reports that chemical weapons were used in Syria
this week, but the United States has a large team investigating
"So far, we have no evidence to substantiate the reports that
chemical weapons were used yesterday. But I want to underline
that we are looking very carefully at these reports," Robert
Ford, who was recalled from Damascus in February 2012, told a
hearing of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs
Separately, US and European officials told Reuters there was
no confirmation that either the forces of Syrian President
Bashar al-Assad or his rebel opponents had used chemical
weapons, as each side had asserted.
"We can't corroborate the CW claims at this point," one U.S.
official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
If confirmed, it would be the first use of such weapons in
the two-year-old conflict.
Lawmakers also expressed concern about growing Iranian
military support for Assad's government, and they pressed
Ford on how the United States is pushing Baghdad over Iranian
weapons pouring into Syria through Iraq.
"We have had very direct conversations with the Iraqis," Ford
said, listing meetings in Washington and the Iraqi capital.
"We have been very direct with them about the importance of
not allowing Iran to exploit the crisis in Syria, and how
that is not helpful to Iraqi interests, as well as the
Ford also said repeatedly in response to lawmakers' questions
that the US policy is not to provide military aid to the
Assad's government and rebels accused each other of launching
a deadly chemical attack near the northern city of Aleppo on
Tuesday. Both sides demanded international investigations. [
The White House and the State Department expressed deep
skepticism over the Syrian government's claims regarding the
"We view this issue with extreme seriousness," Ford told the
congressional hearing. "Right now we are trying to verify the
reports we have seen recently about the use. There are
reports about them being used both in the north and in the
Damascus suburbs, the eastern suburbs of Damascus," he said.
US President Barack Obama has warned that any use of chemical
weapons would be a "red line" that would trigger
consequences, without spelling out what those would be.
Ford said Washington has regular discussions with countries
that have interests in Syria, urging them to "pass the
warning" to Assad and his government. Syria has the largest
stocks of chemical weapons of any country in the region, he
"The president has been very clear in saying that if Assad
and those under his command make the mistake of using
chemical weapons, or if they fail to meet their obligation to
secure them, then there will be consequences and they will be
held accountable," he said, declining to elaborate.