US President Barack Obama on Friday will host Jordan’s King Abdullah II for White House talks that are sure to focus on Syria, after Washington said Damascus had likely used chemical weapons.
Just over a month after the king welcomed Obama to Amman, the US president wants to discuss “Jordan’s political and economic reforms, the crisis in Syria, and additional regional issues of mutual concern,” the White House said.
The two leaders were expected to make brief comments to reporters before their closed-doors talks at about 1:55 pm (1755 GMT) in the Oval Office.
The United States said Thursday for the first time that it believed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime had likely used chemical weapons against rebel fighters, though cautioned spy agencies were not 100 percent sure.
Washington has repeatedly said the use of such weapons would cross a “red line,” triggering possible military action. Last month during a visit to Israel, Obama said the use of chemical weapons would be a “game changer.”
“Our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria,” US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.
The assessment, which she said was based in part on “physiological samples,” points to the possible use of sarin, a man-made nerve agent used in two attacks in Japan in the 1990s. It can cause convulsions, respiratory failure and death.
Obama, who was in Texas on Thursday for the inauguration of the presidential library of his predecessor George W. Bush, has yet to speak publicly about the latest development on the conflict in Syria, which has raged since March 2011.
A senior White House official said Thursday “all options are on the table” should use of the weapons be confirmed.
But a US defense official stressed that a military intervention was not imminent and signaled spy agencies had differing opinions about whether Assad had indeed crossed the “red line.”