INTERNATIONAL > Obama's 'red line' on Syria crossed long ago: Turkish PM Erdoğan

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'There are [Syrian] patients who have been brought to our hospitals who were wounded by these chemical weapons,' Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said during an exclusive interview with NBC News on May 9. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

'There are [Syrian] patients who have been brought to our hospitals who were wounded by these chemical weapons,' Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said during an exclusive interview with NBC News on May 9. DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SÖNMEZ

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called on the U.S. government to take stronger action regarding Syria in an exclusive interview with NBC News' Ann Curry on May 9, a week before his visit to Washington.

Erdoğan said President Barack Obama's "red line" had been crossed a "long time ago," as it was clear that the Syrian government used chemical weapons.

"We want the United States to assume more responsibilities and take further steps. What sort of steps they will take, we are going to talk about this," he said. 

Syria is widely expected to top the agenda during the Turkish prime minister's meeting with Obama at the White House on May 16.

Asked whether Turkey would support a U.S.-enforced no-fly zone in Syria, Erdogan said, "Right from the beginning...we would say 'yes.'

Erdoğan said Turkey had at least 200 "remainders of missiles," which it believes were used in chemical attacks. He also cited the injuries of Syrians who crossed the Turkish border for medical treatment as evidence.

"There are patients who have been brought to our hospitals who were wounded by these chemical weapons," he said, but added that he could not confirm whether sarin gas had been used.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu announced May 9 that Ankara would share with the public the results of blood tests on suspected victims of injured Syrians being treated in Turkey. Davutoğlu also added that standardized blood tests would be carried out on every injured Syrian fleeing the war-torn country.

During his interview with NBC, Erdoğan rejected suggestions that the rebels might have used chemical weapons. "There is no way I can believe in this now. First of all, how are they going to obtain this? Who would give such weapons to them?" he said. "But if it does exist, then we are against it ... We are against whoever holds the weapons."

The Turkish prime minister also referred to reports that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's wife and children had left Syria. He said their life had been "ruined" by the Syrian president. "Sooner or later, the opposition are going to get [Bashar al-Assad]," Erdoğan said, advising the president's family to leave their country.

May/09/2013

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