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Obama, European chiefs discuss Syria

- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 15, 2013

The White House said Saturday that President Obama spoke with several European heads of state about the civil war in Syria, as they prepare to meet Monday for a Group of Eight conference.

Mr. Obama conferred in a conference call late Friday with British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta. The White House said they discussed Syria, "including the regime's use of chemical weapons against its own people, and ways to support a political transition to end the conflict."

Mr. Obama decided on Thursday to send arms to Syrian rebels after the U.S. confirmed that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad has used sarin gas in lethal attacks on civilians.

Mr. Cameron and Mr. Obama reportedly are planning a showdown with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-8 over Syria. Mr. Putin's government has dismissed the evidence of chemical weapon use in the civil war.

A task force of 300 Marines has been deployed on the Syrian border in northern Jordan as the U.S. prepares to send weapons to opposition forces in the next few weeks.

The president and the European leaders also discussed Libya, their collective efforts to support Prime Minister Ali Zeidan, "and the Libyan government's work to enhance security and advance the political transition."

The White House said Mr. Obama noted "how much he is looking forward to his first trip to Europe during his second term, which will include addressing youth in Belfast, Northern Ireland; attending the G-8; and making an official visit to Berlin at the invitation of Chancellor Merkel."

The G-8 summit will be held Monday and Tuesday at a resort in Northern Ireland. From there, Mr. Obama and his family will travel to Berlin, where he will give a speech on Wednesday at the famed Brandenburg Gate.

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