In Israel, Obama Warns Syria on Chemical Weapons
On Iran, says there's still time for diplomacy to work
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Mar 20, 2013 4:08 PM CDT
President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu huddle during their joint news conference in Jerusalem.   (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(Newser) – Maybe the most newsworthy item out of President Obama's news conference today with Benjamin Netanyahu centered on Syria, not Israel. Obama said the US is investigating claims that chemical weapons were used in Aleppo, and he warned that Bashar al-Assad will be held accountable if he employed them, reports Reuters. "I’ve instructed my teams to find out precisely whether this red line was crossed," said Obama, using language the New York Times described as "surprisingly strong in tone." The president added that he was "deeply skeptical" of the Assad regime's claims that it was rebels who used chemical weapons. (It remains unclear whether either side used them.)

Obama also reaffirmed Israel's right to defend itself—"each country has to make its own decisions when it comes to the awesome decision to engage in any kind of military action"—and he said "there is not a lot of daylight" between US and Israeli assessments on Iran's nuclear program, reports USA Today. Netanyahu said he is "absolutely convinced that the president is determined to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons." While he stressed Israel's right to act independently, Obama said there's still time for a diplomatic solution. The trip isn't expected to yield much in terms of concrete policy.

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