WASHINGTON — The Obama administration says it has "high confidence" that Syria's government carried out a chemical weapons attack last week outside Damascus, the capital — killing 1,429 people.
The U.S. chemical weapons assessment says Syrian President Bashar Assad's government used an unidentified nerve agent in the attack. The report cites human and satellite intelligence that it says backs up publicly available videos and other evidence.
The unclassified report says at least 426 children died.
The report says the "high confidence" assessment is the strongest position that U.S. intelligence agencies can take short of confirmation.
It dismisses the Assad government's contention that rebels were responsible.
The U.S. says additional intelligence remains classified but is being provided to allies and Congress.
Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.S. knows based on intelligence that the Syrian regime carefully prepared for days to launch a chemical weapons attack.
Kerry says Syrian regime personnel were on the ground for three days beforehand, making preparations.
He says regime elements were told to prepare by putting on gas masks.
Kerry says the U.S. also knows where the rockets were launched from. He says the rockets came from regime-controlled areas.
Kerry also says a senior regime official confirmed that the weapons were used and was afraid it would be discovered.The U.S. has released a public report on intelligence gathered about last week's deadly attack. President Barack Obama is preparing for a possible military strike in response.
At a glance
Here's a look at key Syria developments around the world Friday amid heightened tensions over potential military action:
The U.S. government said it has "high confidence" that Syria's government carried out a chemical weapons attack — killing 1,429 people, including at least 426 children. Those numbers are significantly higher than what Syrian activists and aid workers have reported from Syria. The U.S. chemical weapons assessment said Assad's government used an unidentified nerve agent, and cites human and satellite intelligence that it said backs up publicly available videos and other evidence.
French President Francois Hollande said his country can go ahead with plans to strike Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons despite the British parliament's failure to endorse military action. He told the newspaper Le Monde that the "chemical massacre of Damascus cannot and must not remain unpunished."
U.N. experts completed a final day of on-site visits in their investigation into the attack. It was not immediately known where they went. Shops and supermarkets in Damascus were filled with people stocking up on bread, canned food and candles ahead of expected strikes, but there were no apparent signs of panic or shortages.
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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will meet privately with the ambassadors of the five permanent Security Council members as part of his efforts to urge the divided council to come together and act on Syria's crisis. Ban returned to New York on Thursday evening after cutting short a trip to Europe to be ready to receive a briefing from the chemical weapons inspectors.
Presidential foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov expressed puzzlement over why the U.N. team was leaving "when there are many questions about a possible use of chemical weapons in other areas in Syria." He said Russia has not seen the U.S. intelligence that Washington claims proves the role of the Syrian government in last week's alleged chemical weapons attack.
Treasury chief George Osborne warned that Britain should not turn its back on the world after the stunning parliamentary defeat of a government motion for military intervention in Syria. He told the BBC there will be "national soul-searching" about Britain's global role after the "no" vote.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Germany isn't considering joining military action against Syria and hasn't been asked by others to do so. Berlin has called for the international community to take a "clear position" following the alleged chemical attack, but has left open what exactly that might entail.
Followers of anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr held rallies in Baghdad and the southern Iraqi city of Basra to denounce any Western strikes against Syria. In the capital, about 2,000 Sadrists demonstrated while chanting anti-American slogans after Friday prayers. About 3,000 Sadrists rallied in Basra, some carrying banners reading "No to America."