Obama Lobbies Congress on Syria Strike
September 02, 2013
by VOA News
U.S. President Barack Obama made the case for military action in Syria in talks with a key lawmaker at the White House on Monday.
Obama held talks Monday afternoon with Senator John McCain, who has long urged the president to take forceful action against Syria, possibly even removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power.
But many U.S. lawmakers remain skeptical, questioning whether the military should be involved at all.
U.S. officials Sunday briefed some lawmakers on intelligence showing the Syrian military dropped poison gas on civilians outside Damascus last month, killing more than 1,000 people.
In an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro published Monday, Syria's president rejected the allegations as illogical, charging neither the United States nor France has been able to produce any proof. Assad also warned that any potential military strike by the U.S. or France would risk igniting a regional war.
In addition to the evidence released by the U.S., French intelligence documents made public Monday conclude Assad was behind a "massive and coordinated" chemical weapons attack.
Despite the evidence, international support for military intervention in Syria has been waning. But NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Monday something must be done.
"It is my firm position that the international community should react in such a situation, otherwise we would send the very dangerous signal to dictators all over the world that they can use a chemical weapons without any reaction from the international community," said Rasmussen.
So far, only France and Turkey have come out strongly in favor of a military response.
Russia, a long-time Syrian ally, questioned Monday the credibility of U.S. evidence the Assad government used chemical weapons. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also cautioned that any military strike will only make it more difficult to find a political solution.
"If the action announced by the U.S. president, to our great disappointment, does take place, then I think, regardless of all words about the Geneva-2, it will delay any prospects for such forum for a long time, if not forever," warned Lavrov.
Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby also said a military option in Syria is "out of the question," though he re-iterated those behind the alleged chemical weapons attack must answer for their actions.
"I cannot say that there are two viewpoints [within Arab states], however I can say that there is a general opinion represented by 18 countries in which what is needed is to take deterring measures against those who committed this crime," Elaraby said.
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