Defense officials say US warship on the move as Obama plays down prospect of Syria intervention

Saturday - 8/24/2013, 12:40am EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama has been playing down the prospect of speedy U.S. intervention in Syria, but defense officials are preparing options in response to this week's claims of a large-scale chemical weapons attack near Damascus by Syrian government forces.

In an interview with CNN, Obama stressed the difficulty of ordering military action against President Bashar Assad's government without a strong international coalition and a legal mandate from the United Nations.

Speaking to reporters on a flight to Asia, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the U.S. is coordinating with the international community to determine "what exactly did happen" in the reported chemical weapon attack and suggested the Pentagon is moving naval forces closer to Syria in preparation for possible strikes.

While Hagel declined to discuss any specific force movements, U.S. defense officials say the Navy has moved a fourth warship into the region. U.S. Navy ships are capable of a variety of military action, including launching Tomahawk cruise missiles, as they did against Libya in 2011 as part of an international action that led to the overthrow of the Libyan government.

%@AP Links

217-c-18-(Jackie Quinn, AP correspondent)-"weapons against civilians"-AP correspondent Jackie Quinn reports the U.S. military is making plans, in case the international community confirms that the Syrian government did launch a chemical weapons attack. (23 Aug 2013)

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221-a-13-(Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, speaking to reporters on a flight from Hawaii to Kuala Lumpur)-"be made, uh, swiftly (2nd reference)"-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says the U.S. is working with other countries on the investigation to determine if the Syrian government launched a chemical weapons attack this week. (23 Aug 2013)

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