WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. military officer deplored the weekend massacre in Syria on Monday and urged the international community to use diplomatic and economic pressure to end the violence there.
"The events in Syria over the weekend are just horrific, atrocious really," General Martin Dempsey said on "CBS This Morning" television program.
Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he expected international pressure to mount on Syria, where the massacre in Houla of 108 civilians, many of them children, drew U.N. National Security Council condemnation on Sunday.
"I think that diplomatic pressure should always precede any discussions about military options. And that's my job by the way, is options, not policy. So we'll be prepared to provide options if asked to do so," Dempsey said.
President Barack Obama told G8 leaders last week that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must leave power. Assad's government has been attacking protesters for 14 months.
The Obama administration's approach to the crisis in Syria, with its capable military and its strategic location between U.S. allies Turkey and Israel, has been cautious, drawing criticism from some Republicans.
"Of course we always have to provide military options and they should be considered," Dempsey said later on CNN.
But he stressed that the international community should use economic and diplomatic measures first to try to push Assad to "make the right decision."
(This has been corrected in paragraph 2 to change name to Martin)
(Writing by Doina Chiacu)