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Kerry: Syria Findings 'Are As Clear As They Are Compelling'

Updated: Friday, August 30 2013, 05:48 PM EDT

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday announced the US Government has determined that the Assad regime has the largest chemical weapons program in the entire Middle East and that the regime has used those weapons multiple times this year.

"The United States government knows that at least 1,429 Syrians were killed in this attack including at least 426 children," Kerry said of last week's attack in Damascus.

Kerry said the findings "Are as clear as they are compelling. I'm not asking you to talk my word for it. Read for yourself…evidence from thousands of sources," he said.

Kerry noted that though the government has taken steps to declassify and make many documents available to the public that some details will only be released to members of Congress.

Kerry gave compelling testimony on what had been witnessed by the UN in Syria.

"We saw rows of dead lined up in burial shrouds," Kerry said. "White linen, unstained by a single drop of blood...we saw rows of children lying side by side, sprawled on a hospital floor, all of them dead from Assad's gas."

He did note that though the UN found evidence of the use of chemical weapons it was not tasked with finding who deployed the weapons.

"As [UN] Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said again and again, the UN investigation will not affirm who used these chemical weapons. That's not the mandate of the UN investigation. They will only affirm whether said weapons were used," Kerry specified.

The Secretary of State said conversations will US Congress and US allies are ongoing.

"President Obama will ensure the United States makes our own decisions on our own timeline," Kerry said, adding that "Any actions he might decide to take will be limited in tailored response to ensure that a despot's brutal and flagrant use of chemical weapons [is] held accountable."

The primary objective Kerry said is to have a diplomatic process to "have a diplomatic process that can resolve this through negotiation…it has to be political…it has to happen at the negotiation table."

Kerry emphasized that the US will not turn a blind eye to the ongoing situation.

"We are the United States. We are the country that has tried, not always successfully…to honor a set of universal values around which we have organized our lives and our aspirations," Kerry said. "This crime against conscience, this crime against humanity, this crime against the most fundamental principles of the international community…this matters to us. And it matters to who we are. It matters to leadership and to our credibility in the world…Americans should feel confident and gratified that we are not alone in our condemnation. That we are not alone in our will to do something and act…many friends stand ready to respond."

Kerry: Syria Findings 'Are As Clear As They Are Compelling'

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The Syrian civil war, (also known as the Syrian uprising or Syrian crisis) is an ongoing armed conflict in Syria between forces loyal to the Ba'ath government and those seeking to oust it. A part of the larger Middle Eastern protest movement known as the Arab Spring, the conflict began March 15th, 2011 with local demonstrations that grew in scope to become nationwide by April 2011.

Protesters demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad, whose family has held the presidency in Syria since 1971, as well as the end of Ba'ath Party rule, which began in 1963.

The Syrian Army was deployed in April of 2011 to stop the uprising, and soldiers fired on demonstrators across the country. After months of cities and neighborhoods being cut-off by the Army the protests evolved into an armed rebellion.

The Arab League, United States, European Union, and other countries condemned the use of violence against the protesters. The Arab League suspended Syria's membership as a result of the government's response to the crisis, but granted the Syrian National Coalition, a coalition of Syrian political opposition groups, Syria's seat on 6 March 2013.

According to the UN, about 4 million Syrians have been displaced within the country and 2 million have fled to other countries.

Syrian government supporters include Russia and Iran, while Qatar and Saudi Arabia are providing material and weapons to the rebels.

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