WASHINGTON — President Trump opened a news conference with a key Middle East ally Wednesday by denouncing this week's chemical attack in Syria and suggesting his administration would develop a new policy toward Bashar al-Assad's government.
At a Rose Garden news conference, Trump accused the Assad government of being behind the "horrific" attack that targeted "women, small children, and even beautiful little babies."
The attack, Trump said, "crossed a lot of lines for me."
"These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated," Trump said at the conference with Jordan's King Abdullah, whom Trump called a "great warrior."
Abdullah has been a leader in the fight against the Islamic State, Trump said.
"It will be a shorter fight than a lot of people are thinking about."
Trump again blamed predecessor Barack Obama, saying he should have dealt with Assad years ago.
"It is now my responsibility," Trump said. "It was a great opportunity missed."
In 2013, when Obama sought congressional approval to launch air strikes against Syria after an earlier gas attack, Trump criticized him, saying via Twitter that such an attack would not further U.S. interests.
He pledged an unspecified amount of "humanitarian assistance" to Jordan to deal with refugees, and he pledged to defeat the Islamic State: "We will destroy ISIS, and we will protect civilization."
Abdullah said the partnership with the United States is “close to our hearts,” and he appreciates Trump’s holistic vision of problems in the region.
“I think that the world will be in a very good place as we move with all these challenges ahead,” he said.
He also said the attack in Syria is another testament to the failure of the international community to adequately address the conflict. Abdullah called for "a political solution" in Syria that can end the violence.
"This is happening on our watch,” he said. “This should not be tolerated, whatsoever.”
Before the press conference, Trump told reporters "You'll see" about a new Syria policy. Lamenting "very troubled times in the Middle East," Trump denounced the chemical weapons attack as "a terrible affront to humanity."
In addition to Syria, Abdullah planned to talk to Trump about ideas to somehow re-start peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The Syrian civil war has a had a major impact on Abdullah's nation, as thousands of refugees have poured into Jordan from neighboring Syria.
Trump did not indicate any future plans in saying the attack "is reprehensible and cannot be ignored by the civilized world ... The United States stands with our allies across the globe to condemn this intolerable attack."
The president's meeting with Abdullah comes just before an end-of-the-week summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, one with an agenda that includes the threat of North Korean nuclear weapons.
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