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Hagel Releases Statement On Syria’s Possible Use Of Sarin

Photo credit: DoD

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel thanks troops for their service at an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, April 25, 2013.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel released a statement today in which he disclosed that the White House has informed several members of Congress that Syria has used sarin as a chemical weapon during its two year civil war.

President Obama has previously stated that Syria would be crossing a "red line" if it used chemical weapons, a line that once crossed could trigger military intervention by the United States.

But Hagel cautions in his statement that while there is evidence that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons on a small scale, there needs to be further investigation, because "this is serious business and we need all the facts."

Here is Hagel's statement in full:

This morning, the White House delivered a letter to several members of Congress on the topic of chemical weapons use in Syria. The letter, which will be made available to you here shortly, states that the U.S. intelligence community assesses with some degree of varying confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin.

As I have said, the intelligence community has been assessing information for some time on this issue, and the decision to reach this conclusion was made in the past 24 hours, and I have been in contact with senior officials in Washington today and most recently the last couple of hours on this issue.

We cannot confirm the origin of these weapons, but we do believe that any use of chemical weapons in Syria would very likely have originated with the Assad regime. As the letter states, the President has made it clear that the use of chemical weapons or the transfer of such weapons to terrorist groups would be unacceptable.

The United States has an obligation to fully investigate including with all key partners and allies, and through the United Nations evidence of chemical weapons use in Syria.

Over the past week, I have traveled as you all know to five countries in the Middle East all of whom have expressed concerns about the deteriorating situation in Syria. And you have asked me on several occasions about chemical weapons use.

As I've said, this is serious business we need all the facts.

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