President Donald Trump on Thursday denounced Bashar al-Assad as responsible for an "egregious" crime, suggesting the United States could be poised to take action against the Syrian leader over this week's apparent chemical attack.
"What Assad did is terrible. What happened in Syria is truly one of the egregious crimes," Trump said while travelling to Florida on board Air Force One.
"I think what happened in Syria is a disgrace to humanity, and he's there, and I guess he's running things, so I guess something should happen."
Trump's comments came as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called explicitly for "a political process that would lead to Assad leaving."
"Assad's role in the future is uncertain and with the acts that he has taken, it would seem that there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people," he said.
Tillerson also vowed Washington would make an "appropriate response" to Tuesday's attack which left at least 86 people dead in northwestern Syria.
"We are considering an appropriate response (to the) violations of all previous UN resolutions, violations of international norms," he said in televised comments at Palm Beach airport in Florida, where he greeted China's Xi Jinping ahead of summit talks with Trump.
Tillerson did not specify what actions the United States would take.
A week ago, the US top diplomat had sent the opposite signal regarding the Syrian leader, saying his fate should be decided by his own people.
Those comments were echoed by the US envoy to the United Nations, Nikki Haley -- but the ambassador has performed a U-turn since the Khan Sheikhun attack, holding up pictures of its lifeless child victims at the UN on Wednesday and calling for action.
Trump on Wednesday warned that Assad's regime had crossed a line with the attack in Idlib province, calling it an "affront to humanity" and suggesting there would be a US response.
A US official said Thursday the Pentagon is presenting the White House with a range of possible military options it could take in response to the attack.
Options include strikes to ground the Syrian air force, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
© 2017 AFP