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White House rules out 'regime change' among options for Syria

A worker cleans a sidewalk outside the White House in Washington March 2, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
A worker cleans a sidewalk outside the White House in Washington March 2, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House ruled out any military effort to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power on Tuesday as President Barack Obama ponders options in response to last week's chemical weapons attack in Syria.

"The options that we are considering are not about regime change," said White House spokesman Jay Carney. "They are about responding to a clear violation of an international standard that prohibits the use of chemical weapons."

Obama is considering cruise missile strikes against Syrian targets in response to the August 21 chemical weapons attack that U.S. officials are increasingly confident was launched by the Syrian government.

Carney said the United States expects to release in coming days a public version of a formal report by the U.S. intelligence community on the use of chemical weapons. The report is expected to conclude the Syrian government was responsible for the attack.

Any attempt at "regime change" by the United States would draw the United States deeply into a conflict that Obama has been determined to avoid. The president has already ruled out putting U.S. troops on the ground in Syria.

The United States wants Assad to leave power, but as part of a negotiated political settlement with the Syrian rebels.

Carney said the United States has a variety of options from which to use, not just military options. Most of the talk about Syria in recent days, however, has been about a limited cruise missile attack.

Carney reiterated that Obama had not made a decision on how the United States will respond to what it believes was an attack on civilians by the Syrian government.

"When the president has an announcement to make, he'll make it," Carney said.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton, Jeff Mason and Steve Holland; Editing by Sandra Maler and Cynthia Osterman)

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