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Obama defends approach to determining if Syria used chemical arms

U.S. President Barack Obama attends a joint news conference with South Korea's President Park Geun-hye in the East Room of the White House i
U.S. President Barack Obama attends a joint news conference with South Korea's President Park Geun-hye in the East Room of the White House i

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Tuesday defended his deliberate approach to determining whether Syria used chemical weapons and pointed to the fates of Osama bin Laden and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi as evidence that "we typically follow through on our commitments."

Obama has drawn some fire for going it slow on Syria amid large casualties there in the country's two-year civil war. At a news conference with visiting South Korean President Park Geun-hye, however, he pushed back against the criticism.

Obama said he has to make decisions based on hard-headed analysis, not on "a hope and a prayer," and that he cannot make a decision or organize international coalitions on the basis of simply "perceived" evidence of Syrian transgressions.

The United States is currently investigating charges that Syria used chemical weapons and is seeking more evidence to support the allegations.

The United States has said it has "varying degrees of confidence" that chemical weapons have been used by Syria's government on its people, which violates a "red line" that Obama had established against such action.

Obama said he wanted to make sure the United States is proceeding deliberately and pointed out times during his presidency when he said he was going to act on an issue, and "I got it done."

He cited the late bin Laden, killed by U.S. special forces two years ago, and Gaddafi, driven from power by a U.S.-backed rebellion and later killed in 2011.

"Whether it's bin Laden or Gaddafi, if we say we're taking a position, I would think at this point the international community has a pretty good sense that we typically follow through on our commitments," he said.

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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