HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania on Thursday urged strong action in Syria now that the White House has said it has conclusive evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons against opposition forces.

In a statement, Casey reminded President Barack Obama that using chemical weapons has crossed a “red line” that Obama has said would trigger greater American involvement in the crisis.

“The time for U.S. action is overdue,” Casey said. “Assad must go, but this will not happen without decisive leadership from the United States.”

Obama authorized sending weapons to Syrian rebels for the first time, U.S. officials said, after the White House disclosed Thursday that it has conclusive evidence that Assad’s regime has used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against opposition forces. The White House said multiple chemical attacks last year killed up to 150 people.

Casey said he spoke Wednesday with the Syrian opposition’s military leader and fears that thousands of Assad’s troops and Hezbollah fighters assembling outside Aleppo for a ground assault will defeat moderate opposition forces without U.S. intervention.

He says Obama should consider grounding the Syrian air force with stand-off weapons and using Patriot missiles in Turkey to protect a safe zone in northern Syria.

“As I have said from the beginning of this conflict, the U.S. has deep national security interests in confronting Iran and Hezbollah,” Casey said. “In recent weeks, both have gained the upper hand in this conflict and unless the U.S. considers swift action, I fear that these supporters of terrorism will be victorious in Syria and emboldened throughout the region.”

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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