(changes dateline, re-ledes with U.S. statements
President Barack Obama said Friday that he has not made a final decision on whether to proceed with what would be a "limited narrow act" to punish the Syrian government for its alleged use of chemical weapons against rebels.
"We're not considering any open ended commitment. We're not considering any boots on the ground approach," he told reporters after a White House meeting with Baltic leaders.
The president's remarks followed the release of an unclassified summary of the U.S. government's appraisal of the Aug. 21 incident in the suburbs of Damascus.
"The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack," the White House document says.
"A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children," the release says.
The alleged chemical attack constitutes a "challenge to the world," Obama said.
"We cannot accept a world where women and children - innocent civilians - are gassed on a grand scale," the president said.
Calling the U.S. accusations "an insult to common sense," Syrian President Bashar Assad has said it would have been illogical to order a chemical attack with U.N. weapons inspectors already in the and government forces' holding the upper hand in the armed conflict.
France, meanwhile, said it remains "prepared" to participate in a U.S.-led strike on Syria despite British lawmakers' rejection of military action.
"Every country is sovereign in terms of participating or not in an operation. That's true of both Britain and France," French President François Hollande said in an interview published Friday by Paris daily Le Monde.
"The chemical massacre by Damascus cannot and must not go unpunished," he said.
His remarks were published a day after Britain's House of Commons voted 285-272 against a motion that would have opened the door to British participation in a U.S.-led strike.
The French president said he would discuss the Syrian situation in depth Friday with Obama and ruled out military action until U.N. weapons inspectors leave the Arab nation on Saturday, a day ahead of schedule. EFE