Saturday, August 31, 2013

POLITICS_ President Obama's statement on Syria

President Obama's statement on Syria

Published August 31, 2013
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Good afternoon, everybody. Ten days ago, the world watched in horror as men, women and children were massacred in Syria in the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century. Yesterday the United States presented a powerful case that the Syrian government was responsible for this attack on its own people.

Our intelligence shows the Assad regime and its forces preparing to use chemical weapons, launching rockets in the highly populated suburbs of Damascus, and acknowledging that a chemical weapons attack took place. And all of this corroborates what the world can plainly see -- hospitals overflowing with victims; terrible images of the dead. All told, well over 1,000 people were murdered. Several hundred of them were children -- young girls and boys gassed to death by their own government

This attack is an assault on human dignity. It also presents a serious danger to our national security. It risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons. It endangers our friends and our partners along Syria’s borders, including Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. It could lead to escalating use of chemical weapons, or their proliferation to terrorist groups who would do our people harm.

In a world with many dangers, this menace must be confronted.

Now, after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. This would not be an open-ended intervention. We would not put boots on the ground. Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope. But I'm confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behavior, and degrade their capacity to carry it out.

Our military has positioned assets in the region. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has informed me that we are prepared to strike whenever we choose. Moreover, the Chairman has indicated to me that our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive; it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now. And I'm prepared to give that order.

But having made my decision as Commander-in-Chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interests, I'm also mindful that I'm the President of the world's oldest constitutional democracy. I've long believed that our power is rooted not just in our military might, but in our example as a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. And that’s why I've made a second decision: I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people's representatives in Congress.

Over the last several days, we've heard from members of Congress who want their voices to be heard. I absolutely agree. So this morning, I spoke with all four congressional leaders, and they've agreed to schedule a debate and then a vote as soon as Congress comes back into session.

In the coming days, my administration stands ready to provide every member with the information they need to understand what happened in Syria and why it has such profound implications for America's national security. And all of us should be accountable as we move forward, and that can only be accomplished with a vote.

I'm confident in the case our government has made without waiting for U.N. inspectors. I'm comfortable going forward without the approval of a United Nations Security Council that, so far, has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable. As a consequence, many people have advised against taking this decision to Congress, and undoubtedly, they were impacted by what we saw happen in the United Kingdom this week when the Parliament of our closest ally failed to pass a resolution with a similar goal, even as the Prime Minister supported taking action.

Yet, while I believe I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization, I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course, and our actions will be even more effective. We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual. And this morning, John Boehner, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell agreed that this is the right thing to do for our democracy.

A country faces few decisions as grave as using military force, even when that force is limited. I respect the views of those who call for caution, particularly as our country emerges from a time of war that I was elected in part to end. But if we really do want to turn away from taking appropriate action in the face of such an unspeakable outrage, then we just acknowledge the costs of doing nothing.

Here's my question for every member of Congress and every member of the global community: What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price? What's the purpose of the international system that we've built if a prohibition on the use of chemical weapons that has been agreed to by the governments of 98 percent of the world's people and approved overwhelmingly by the Congress of the United States is not enforced?

Make no mistake -- this has implications beyond chemical warfare. If we won't enforce accountability in the face of this heinous act, what does it say about our resolve to stand up to others who flout fundamental international rules? To governments who would choose to build nuclear arms? To terrorist who would spread biological weapons? To armies who carry out genocide?

We cannot raise our children in a world where we will not follow through on the things we say, the accords we sign, the values that define us.

So just as I will take this case to Congress, I will also deliver this message to the world. While the U.N. investigation has some time to report on its findings, we will insist that an atrocity committed with chemical weapons is not simply investigated, it must be confronted.

I don't expect every nation to agree with the decision we have made. Privately we’ve heard many expressions of support from our friends. But I will ask those who care about the writ of the international community to stand publicly behind our action.

And finally, let me say this to the American people: I know well that we are weary of war. We’ve ended one war in Iraq. We’re ending another in Afghanistan. And the American people have the good sense to know we cannot resolve the underlying conflict in Syria with our military. In that part of the world, there are ancient sectarian differences, and the hopes of the Arab Spring have unleashed forces of change that are going to take many years to resolve. And that's why we’re not contemplating putting our troops in the middle of someone else’s war.

Instead, we’ll continue to support the Syrian people through our pressure on the Assad regime, our commitment to the opposition, our care for the displaced, and our pursuit of a political resolution that achieves a government that respects the dignity of its people.

But we are the United States of America, and we cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus. Out of the ashes of world war, we built an international order and enforced the rules that gave it meaning. And we did so because we believe that the rights of individuals to live in peace and dignity depends on the responsibilities of nations. We aren’t perfect, but this nation more than any other has been willing to meet those responsibilities.

So to all members of Congress of both parties, I ask you to take this vote for our national security. I am looking forward to the debate. And in doing so, I ask you, members of Congress, to consider that some things are more important than partisan differences or the politics of the moment.

Ultimately, this is not about who occupies this office at any given time; it’s about who we are as a country. I believe that the people’s representatives must be invested in what America does abroad, and now is the time to show the world that America keeps our commitments. We do what we say. And we lead with the belief that right makes might -- not the other way around.

We all know there are no easy options. But I wasn’t elected to avoid hard decisions. And neither were the members of the House and the Senate. I’ve told you what I believe, that our security and our values demand that we cannot turn away from the massacre of countless civilians with chemical weapons. And our democracy is stronger when the President and the people’s representatives stand together.

I’m ready to act in the face of this outrage. Today I’m asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are ready to move forward together as one nation.

Thanks very much.

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WORLD_ McCain faults Obama over Syria, says US failure to intervene 'shameful'

McCain faults Obama over Syria, says US failure to intervene 'shameful'

By Emily Gold and Alastair Jamieson, NBC News

Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., criticized President Barack Obama’s plans for limited air strikes on Syria as “cosmetic” Friday, saying the failure of the United States to intervene in the country’s civil war was “shameful.”

In an interview with "The Tonight Show" host Jay Leno, the veteran and former presidential hopeful repeated his call for Washington to arm Syria’s rebel Free Syrian Army in its fight against the regime of President Bashar Assad.

He acknowledged that there was little public appetite for U.S. military involvement, but said “the option of doing nothing, in my view, is even worse.”

He said: “I’m sure that all Americans have seen these horrible pictures of dead kids, children lined up, so then the question is ‘What do we do?’

“The president apparently wants to have a kind of a cosmetic strike, launch a few missiles and then say ‘Well, we responded.’ This is the same president that, two years ago, said Bashar Assad had to go.

“It’s also the president that said that there would be a red line if they used chemical weapons, maybe that red line was written in disappearing ink.”

He added: “To our everlasting shame, not one single weapon from the USA has reached the hands of General Idris and the Free Syrian Army. That is shameful, in my view.”

Asked by Leno what we he would do if here were president, McCain said: “I’d crater the runways, the six air fields that Bashar Assad uses. I’d prevent him from using his air power. I would get the weapons to the people who are fighting and dying as we speak, and I would probably get a safe zone… you could do that in one day and you would not put a single American in any danger because you could do it with standoff weapons.”

He said limited military strikes of the type reportedly planned by White house as early as this weekend could be “counter-productive” because “maybe Bashar Assad would say ‘See, I stood up to the Americans’.”

“I know Americans are war-weary… but I believe that we can prevail without American lives in danger,” he added.

This story was originally published on Sat Aug 31, 2013 7:21 AM EDT


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WORLD_ F.B.I. Sharpens Scrutiny of Syrians in U.S. for Signs of Retaliation

F.B.I. Sharpens Scrutiny of Syrians in U.S. for Signs of Retaliation

The New York Times
Published: August 31, 2013

The F.B.I. has increased its surveillance of Syrians inside the United States in response to concerns that a military strike against the government of President Bashar al-Assad could lead to terrorist attacks here or against American allies and interests abroad, according to current and former senior United States officials.

The government has also taken the unusual step of warning federal agencies and private companies that American military action in Syria could spur cyberattacks, the officials said. There were no such alerts before previous military operations, like the one against Libya in 2011.

The authorities are particularly concerned because Iran — one of Mr. Assad’s closest allies — has said there will be reprisals against Israel if the United States attacks Syria. The Iranians have also shown a willingness to sponsor terrorist attacks on American targets, according to the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss a continuing operation.

“They’re not starting from scratch — the field offices know what they have in terms of sources and investigations, but this is a directive for them to redouble their efforts and check their traps,” one senior American official said.

Senior national security officials at F.B.I. headquarters in Washington have told the bureau’s field offices in recent days to follow up with sources who have ties to Syrians in an attempt to find talk or evidence of a retaliatory strike, the officials said.

And Syrians implicated in continuing investigations will be put under even closer scrutiny, the officials said. The Department of Homeland Security and the F.B.I. have also sent out a classified bulletin alerting federal, state and local law enforcement officials of potential threats created by the Syria conflict, the officials said. A senior F.B.I. official declined to comment.

F.B.I. agents are expected to interview hundreds of Syrians in the coming days. During the international campaign against Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya two years ago, the agency interviewed nearly 1,000 Libyans, but it was unclear if it would cast as broad a net in this operation.

The F.B.I. director during the Libyan campaign, Robert S. Mueller III, told Congress at the time that there “may be intelligence officers that are operating with the different types of cover in the United States.”

“We want to make certain that we’ve identified these individuals to assure that no harm comes from them, knowing that they may well have been associated with the Qaddafi regime,” he said.

Colonel Qaddafi’s regime ultimately fell, and there were no reprisal attacks inside the United States. But a little more than a year later, terrorists attacked the American mission in Benghazi, Libya, killing four Americans, including the United States ambassador — an indication that reprisals may not occur right away.

During the current crisis, the Syrian Electronic Army, a group of hackers who claim to support Mr. Assad, has successfully attacked a number of American companies, including The New York Times.

“The new element here is the cyberattack,” one American official said. The group claimed responsibility this week not only for shutting down the Web site of The Times but also for causing disruptions on the Washington Post and Financial Times sites.

James W. McJunkin, a former top F.B.I. counterterrorism official, said that before the Iraq war began in 2003, the bureau sent field agents to question Iraqi-Americans about whether they had noticed any suspicious behavior or had received information from relatives in Iraq that might be valuable to American intelligence agencies. He said some senior F.B.I. officials did not believe that such a manpower-intensive operation was effective.

“We didn’t think the return on investment was especially high given the time and resources required to contact that many people,” Mr. McJunkin said.

The authorities’ fears were heightened on Tuesday when Iranian lawmakers and commanders said Iran would attack Israel in retaliation for any American strike against Syria.

Mansur Haqiqatpur, an influential member of the Iranian Parliament, was quoted by the semiofficial Fars news agency as saying, “In case of a U.S. military strike against Syria, the flames of outrage of the region’s revolutionaries will point toward the Zionist regime” — Iran’s derogatory term for Israel.

In 2011, the federal authorities accused Iranian officials of plotting to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States as part of a complicated plot that included plans to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Washington and the Israeli and Saudi Embassies in Argentina. An Iranian-American pleaded guilty to charges that he had tried to carry out the plot and was sentenced in May to 25 years in prison.

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.

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Friday, August 30, 2013

WORLD_ Kerry calls attack against Syrian civilians 'crime against humanity'

Kerry calls attack against Syrian civilians 'crime against humanity'

Updated 7 minutes ago

Secretary of State John Kerry explains why military action against Syria would be justified.

By Erin McClam and F. Brinley Bruton, NBC News

Making a forceful case to answer a “crime against conscience,” Secretary of State John Kerry declared Friday that the United States had a moral obligation to punish Syria for using chemical weapons — painting a ghastly portrait of twitching bodies, victims foaming at the mouth and row upon row of children gassed to death.

He called Syrian leader Bashar Assad “a thug and a murderer” and pledged, to a country weary after more than a decade of war in the Middle East, that the American response would not require ground troops and would not be open-ended.

President Barack Obama said he had not made a decision on military action, but echoed Kerry in saying any U.S. action would be limited. The United States has an obligation "as a leader in the world" to hold foreign nations to account when they use prohibited weapons, the president said.

"This kind of offense is a challenge to the world," said Obama after a meeting with Baltic leaders. While the U.S. would prefer to act with the broad support of the international community, which has so far not been forthcoming, Obama said, "we don't want the world to be paralyzed."

An administration official confirmed that Obama spoke with British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande on Friday.

With Americans skeptical, members of Congress raising questions and other nations outright objecting to a U.S. attack, Kerry said the world had to answer what he called a crime against humanity itself, carried out last week in the suburbs of the Syrian capital. He revealed that the attack had killed 1,429 people, including 426 children.

“Instead of being tucked safely in their beds at home,” he said, “we saw rows of children lying side by side, sprawled on a hospital floor, all of them dead from Assad’s gas, and surrounded by parents and grandparents who had suffered the same fate.”

He declared: “My friends, it matters here if nothing is done. It matters if the world speaks out in condemnation and then nothing happens.”

Referring directly to the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said: “Fatigue does not absolve us of our responsibility. Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about.”

As he spoke, the White House released an intelligence report claiming “high confidence” that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons in the attack. The report cited a “large body of independent sources” but acknowledged that not all the evidence could be declassified.

Kerry encouraged Americans to read the report for themselves. He gave details of the American intelligence findings, including that Syrian rockets carrying chemical agents had been fired only from regime-controlled areas and had landed only in rebel-dominated areas.

Of the victims, he said: “We know what the doctors treating them didn’t report. Not a scratch. Not a shrapnel wound. Not a cut. Not a gunshot wound. We saw rows of dead, lined up in burial shrouds, the white linen unstained by a single drop of blood.”

Britain, the most steadfast U.S. ally, rejected military action in a stunning vote Thursday night. Acting through the United Nations is a dead-end because China and Russia, which have veto power in the Security Council, will not allow it.

And at home, members of Congress have insisted that Obama get lawmakers’ approval. Americans appear to agree: In a poll released Friday by NBC News, almost eight in 10 said they wanted the president to sell Congress on military action before an attack.

Kerry acknowledged the hesitation and said it was important for the administration to talk about the evidence directly with Congress and the people. But the administration’s findings, he said, were clear and compelling.

“This is common sense. This is evidence. These are facts,” he said. “So the primary question is really no longer ‘What do we know?’ The question is what are we – we collectively – what are we in the world going to do about it?”

Just before Kerry spoke, the United Nations said that its chemical weapons inspectors had finished collecting samples from the site of the attack. But it said a complete analysis would take time and offered no sense of when it would be complete. Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon told the five permanent Security Council members that it may be two weeks before for final results are ready, diplomats told Reuters.

The NBC News poll found that support among Americans is higher for a limited military strike, such as cruise missiles fired from Navy warships in the Mediterranean Sea. But half of Americans are opposed to any military attack on Syria.

Before Kerry spoke, Obama huddled with his National Security Council on Syria at the White House.

On Thursday, top Obama administration officials — including National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel — scrambled to build support for a strike among key members of Congress.

White House officials told NBC News that the administration was prepared for the United States to go it alone. Still, even after a briefing from the administration officials, some members of Congress were unconvinced.

Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif. and the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he was disappointed that the president himself did not take part in the briefing.

“One of the things that has really bothered me is the president drawing a red line without knowing in his mind what he would do if they crossed the red line,” he said, referring to a remark Obama made a year ago about Syria’s potential use of chemical weapons.

Other including members of Congress, including Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., emerged from the briefing persuaded, NBC News reported.

In Syria on Friday, the army bombed rebel-held areas of the capital, Damascus, and artillery shelling and large explosions could be heard from the suburbs at late morning. Stores were open, and people were shopping, even amid sounds of blasts.

Correspondent Bill Neely reported that traffic was flowing in the center of the city but people were apprehensive about whether — and when — missiles might rain down on them.

A Syrian official told Neely that officials were expecting a U.S. attack.

“We know its going to come, we just don’t know when,” Neely quoted the official as saying.

Around 100,000 people are thought to have been killed since the uprising began more than two years ago. Millions have been made homeless.

In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron indicated he wouldn’t proceed without parliamentary approval.

"I strongly believe in the need for a tough response in the use of chemical weapons but I also believe in respecting the will of this House of Commons," he said in the aftermath of his defeat.

Thursday's vote was nonbinding, but Cameron's loss on even a symbolic vote likely means there will be no second-round vote next week.

On Friday, the BBC reported it had witnessed the aftermath of an incendiary bomb dropped by a jet plane on a school playground in the province of Aleppo in the north of the country. Scores of children were left with napalm-like burns on their bodies, the BBC reported.

Kristen Welker, Andrea Mitchell, Shawna Thomas and Matthew DeLuca of NBC News contributed to this report. Reuters also contributed.


•Inside the family that has ruled Syria for decades
•Wounded Syrians find sanctuary in Israeli hospital
•Analysis: What happens after a strike on Syria?

This story was originally published on Fri Aug 30, 2013 5:11 AM EDT


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WORLD_ Syria in crisis: France prepared for military strike against Assad regime despite British backdown

Syria in crisis: France prepared for military strike against Assad regime despite British backdown

Updated 4 hours 23 minutes ago

Photo: French president Francois Hollande says his nation is prepared to strike Syria even though the British are not. (AFP: Miguel Medina)

French president Francois Hollande says he is still backing action to punish Syrian president Bashar al-Assad's government, despite Britain's surprise rejection of armed intervention.

British MPs voted on Thursday against military strikes against the Assad regime for the use of chemical weapons against civilians.

However, Mr Hollande said the British parliament's rebuff would not influence the course of action his country would take.

"France wants firm and proportionate action against the Damascus regime," he said in an interview with Le Monde daily on Friday.

"Each country is free to choose whether to take part in such an operation or not. That holds true for Britain and France."

Key points

_ France to debate strike against Assad regime.
_ Hollande unconcerned by decision against military strike by British MPs.
_ Germany rules out partaking in military action.
_ UN team spends last day investigating chemical strike.

The French parliament is due to meet on Wednesday for an emergency Syria session.

Mr Hollande, who had vowed to "punish" the Syrian government for an alleged chemical weapons attack in Damascus on August 21, said "there was a body of indicators pointing to the responsibility of the Damascus regime."

"The chemical massacre of Damascus cannot remain unpunished," he said, adding: "I will today have a meaningful exchange with [US president] Barack Obama."

Mr Hollande, however, ruled out strikes while the UN inspectors were in Syria investigating the alleged attack.

No apologies over British parliament's decision: Cameron

Meanwhile, British prime minister David Cameron said on Friday that he regretted that the British parliament declined to support military action in Syria, but that he hoped US president Barack Obama would understand his need to listen to the British people's wishes.

The US, which had warned Mr Assad would be crossing a "red line" if chemical weapons were used, said it was still seeking an "interventional coalition" for possible strikes on Syria while reserving the right to act alone.

Mr Cameron said that he did not have to apologise to Mr Obama over the vote.

"I think the American public, the American people and president Obama will understand," Mr Cameron said.

"I haven't spoken to [Obama] since the debate and the vote but I would expect to speak to him over the next day or so. I don't think it's a question of having to apologise," he said in an interview aired on British television channels.

Rudd and Abbott butt heads over Syria response

The political debate over Syria in Australia stepped up a notch on Friday, with Tony Abbott calling for cool heads while Kevin Rudd again attacked his opponent's foreign policy credentials.

In a swipe at the Prime Minister, Mr Abbott said Australia should not exaggerate its role in addressing the crisis in Syria.

The Opposition Leader says it is not a time for "intemperance or for belligerence".

But the Prime Minister highlighted that Australia will take over the reins of the United Nations Security Council, saying Mr Abbott cannot avoid that.

"I know Mr Abbott waged a campaign against Australia becoming a member of the UN Security Council, but if he was to become prime minister in a week's time, he will inherit the presidency of the UN Security Council," Mr Rudd said.

"This is the number one legal entity in the world on matters of global security and from the first of September, Australia has that presidency."

UN inspectors visit military hospital

The UN team investigating the apparent gas attacks headed to a military hospital early on Friday (local time) on the last day of their probe, a security official said.

The official told AFP they were going to the hospital in the Mazzeh district of the Syrian capital, where victims of gas attacks are reportedly being treated.

The inspectors left their hotel in UN-marked cars, accompanied by several vehicles belonging to Syrian forces, an AFP journalist reported.

Syrian authorities accuse rebels of having used poison gas on August 24 in Jobar, another Damascus neighbourhood, to push back an army offensive.

State television said some soldiers had been asphyxiated, and showed images of barrels that authorities reportedly found in the area containing "very dangerous toxic and chemical materials".

The UN inspectors are due to leave Syria by Saturday morning, and will report straight back to UN head Ban Ki-moon.

Germany rules out participation in military strike

Meanwhile, Germany's foreign minister has ruled out his country's participation in a military strike in Syria.

Guido Westerwelle told Saturday's Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung that such a move had "neither been asked nor is it being considered by us", according to pre-released comments by the paper.

"We are pushing for the United Nations Security Council to find a common position and for the work of UN inspectors to be finished as quickly as possible," he added.

Berlin had previously said it would support "consequences" against the Syrian regime if its suspected deadly use of chemical weapons was confirmed, but it did not specify what the consequences would be.

If the gas attacks are confirmed, it would be the deadliest use of chemical weapons since Saddam Hussein gassed Iraqi Kurds in 1988.

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

POLITICS_ Syria crisis: David Cameron makes case for military action

29 August 2013 Last updated at 20:26 GMT

Syria crisis: David Cameron makes case for military action
Comments (1957)

The fighting between rebels and pro-government forces continues in Syria

Prime Minister David Cameron has put his case for military action against Syria to British MPs, but has conceded intelligence that the regime used chemical weapons is not "100% certain".

He told an emergency debate that UK intelligence chiefs believed it "highly likely" the Syrian government was responsible for the 21 August attack.

But he said MPs must make a judgement call ahead of a Commons vote.

The UK could launch strikes without UN backing, according to legal advice.

Action would be a legal "humanitarian intervention" - even if it was vetoed at the UN, the government's summary of the advice said.

Mr Cameron told MPs - who have been recalled early from their summer recess - he was convinced it was "beyond doubt" Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime was behind the attack.

But he added: "In the end there is no 100% certainty about who is responsible."

Mr Cameron also stressed that unless action was taken Damascus would conclude it could use such weapons again and again.

UK opposition leader Ed Miliband said Labour was not ruling out military intervention but insisted there had to be a clear road-map to a decision.

Meanwhile, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council met to discuss the crisis. Two of them, Russia and China, have blocked previous resolutions on the issue and analysts predict they will again.

Russia - Syria's main international ally - called the meeting, which has now ended with no progress towards a consensus, the BBC understands.

Deter future attacks

The Syrian government has denied it is behind the suspected chemical attack near Damascus last week, in which hundreds of people are reported to have died, blaming opposition forces.

US President Barack Obama has said he has not yet decided on a plan for action against Syria, but the White House has said any response will be based on US national security interests.

The White House is due to give senior US Congress members a classified briefing on why it is certain Syria has used chemical weapons.

Other nations are also considering the next move.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for patience and insists he will receive a report on Saturday from weapons inspectors investigating the attack.

Downing Street has said parliament could be recalled again over the weekend if the inspectors' assessment is published.

A spokesman added the government believed there was a case for "surgical strikes" but that the Commons debate was not about "going to war".

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said his country will defend itself against any aggression.

The UK wants a UN Security Council resolution to take "all necessary measures" to help civilians, and presented a draft resolution to members on Wednesday.

However, Downing Street has since released a statement, based on formal legal advice by the attorney general Dominic Grieve, that states limited military strikes to deter future chemical weapons attacks would be in line with international law.

An assessment published by the Joint Intelligence Committee also argued it was "not possible for the opposition to have carried out a chemical weapons attack on this scale".

In its report, chairman Jon Day said it was "highly likely" the Assad regime was responsible.

Opening Thursday's Commons debate, Mr Cameron said: "It's not about taking sides in the conflict, it's not about invading, it's not about regime change or indeed working more closely with the opposition.

"It's about the large-scale use of chemical weapons and our response to a war crime - nothing else."

David Cameron: "This is not like Iraq"

However, he warned MPs it was up to them to make a judgement, saying: "Let's not pretend there is one smoking piece of intelligence that can solve the whole problem."

He also said he was "deeply mindful" of past conflicts - in particular "what went wrong with the Iraq conflict".

"But this is not like Iraq," he insisted. "What we are seeing in Syria is fundamentally different."

The UK Parliament is due to vote on whether to back the principle of military intervention. But Mr Miliband has said MPs should not have to decide on what he called an "artificial timetable".

Speaking during the Commons debate, he insisted any military action should be based on the principle that "evidence should precede decision; not decision precede evidence".

"I do not rule out supporting the prime minister," Mr Miliband said. "But I believe he has to make a better case than he did today on this question."

In other developments:

_ Six RAF Typhoon jets have been deployed to Cyprus as a "prudent and precautionary measure" to protect the UK airbase at Akrotiri.
_ UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon says he expects to receive the weapons inspectors' report by the weekend
_ Protesters gathered outside Downing Street to protest against Western intervention in the Syrian civil war, with some 5,000 people expected to demonstrate on Saturday
_ The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said he was yet to be convinced intervention would prevent future chemical weapons use

The Speaker of the Syrian parliament has written to his counterpart in London inviting a British parliamentary delegation to visit Damascus as soon as possible.

French President Francois Hollande has also yet to decide about a military intervention. But on Thursday, after meeting Ahmed Jarba, the head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Mr Hollande said a political solution would only be possible if "the international community can put a temporary stop to this escalation in violence".

Elsewhere, a Chinese state-run newspaper has warned Western governments that there are no excuses for air strikes on Syria before the UN has completed its investigation.

And Russia, President Assad's main international ally, also says it opposes any foreign military intervention in Syria.

But in the event of any military action, BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt said cruise missiles could be launched from US ships in the Gulf or the Mediterranean, or Royal Navy vessels including submarine HMS Tireless.

Forces which could be used against Syria

_ Four US destroyers - USS Gravely, USS Ramage, USS Barry and USS Mahan are in the eastern Mediterranean, equipped with cruise missiles

_ Cruise missiles could also be launched from submarines, including a British Trafalgar class boat; HMS Tireless was reportedly sighted in Gibraltar at the weekend

_ Airbases at Incirlik and Izmir in Turkey, and in Jordan, could be used to carry out strikes

_ Two aircraft carriers - USS Nimitz and USS Harry S Truman, along with escort ships, are in the wider region

_ The Royal Navy's response force task group - which includes helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious and frigates HMS Montrose and HMS Westminster - is in the region on a scheduled deployment

_ RAF Akrotiri airbase in Cyprus could also be used

_ French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is currently in Toulon in the western Mediterranean

_ French Raffale and Mirage aircraft can also operate from Al-Dhahra airbase in the UAE


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WORLD_ Syria crisis: Britain sends six Typhoon fighter jets to Cyprus ahead of military strikes

Syria crisis: Britain sends six Typhoon fighter jets to Cyprus ahead of military strikes

Britain is sending six Typhoon fighter jets to Cyprus to guard against potential retaliation by the Assad regime in the event of air strikes against Syria.

Britain is sending six Typhoon fighter jets to Cyprus to guard against potential retaliation by the Assad regime in the event of airstrikes against Syria Photo: GETTY IMAGES

By Ben Farmer, Peter Dominiczak and Roland Oliphant in Moscow
10:44AM BST 29 Aug 2013

Syria conflict: latest

RAF sources said the fighters would be stationed in RAF Akrotiri to act as a “defensive shield” for the base in the event of attack by “rogue aircraft”.

The Typhoon fighters will play a “defensive counter-air” role and are not equipped to launch missile strikes on ground targets themselves. Sources said the deployment was “purely a prudent and precautionary measure”.

But the deployment will increase speculation that military action against Bashar al Assad’s regime is imminent, even before the British parliament has debated intervention.

An RAF spokesman said: “We can confirm that as part of ongoing contingency planning, 6 RAF Typhoon interceptor fast jets are deploying this morning to Akrotiri in Cyprus.

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"This is purely a prudent and precautionary measure to ensure the protection of UK interests and the defence of our Sovereign Base Areas at a time of heightened tension in the wider region. This is a movement of defensive assets operating in an air-to-air role only.”

The Typhoons flying from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire will be fitted with the advanced medium range air-to-air missile (AMRAAM), the advanced short range air to air missile (ASRAAM) and a Mauser cannon.

Separately, the Russian navy said it plans to reinforce its Mediterranean flotilla with elements of its Northern fleet are part of a “routine rotation” and are unconnected to the growing crisis in Syria.

A senior member of the Russian General Staff was quoted saying at least two powerful vessels would be redeployed from the Arctic and the Atlantic to “adjust” Russia’s naval presence in the eastern Mediterranean.

“The well known situation currently developing in the eastern Mediterranean required some adjustments to the make up of the naval flotilla. It the next few days it will be joined by a large anti submarine vessel from the Northern Fleet,” the source was quoted as saying.

“Later it will also be joined by the missile cruiser Moskva, currently on manoeuvres in the north Atlantic and will soon begin a transatlantic crossing towards the straits of Gibraltar.”

But the navy moved quickly to distance itself from the comments, saying in a statement to Russian media that any deployment to the area was part of a routine rotation of vessels and had nothing to do with the Syrian crisis.

The announcements came before what is expected to be a charged day in the British parliament, where Ed Miliband could deal a humiliating blow to the Prime Minister by refusing to back David Cameron’s watered down motion on the “principle” of military action in Syria.

Despite the Prime Minister backing down and agreeing to delay a military attack in Syria, Labour is still refusing to support Mr Cameron’s position.

It raises the prospect of Mr Cameron being embarrassed in the Commons despite agreeing to Labour demands over the need for a second Commons vote before any missile strikes on Syria. Labour has said it will be “pressing ahead” with its own amendment to the Government motion because it “sets out [a] clearer criteria of what must be done before any military action is taken”.

Mr Cameron last night said he will wait for a report by United Nations weapons inspectors before seeking the approval of MPs for “direct British involvement” in the Syrian intervention.

Downing Street has accused Mr Miliband of "playing politics" with security issues and attempting to "divide the nation and the House of Commons".

MPs were due to debate the issue in Parliament today and vote on the principle of military strikes.

However, Mr Miliband has told Sky News that he will order his MPs to vote for the Labour amendment.

He said that he is not willing to have the mistakes of the Iraq war and its build-up “made again”.

“People will remember the mistakes that were made in Iraq and I’m not willing to have those mistakes made again,” Mr Miliband said.

“And one of the most important lessons from Iraq is about giving the United Nations…the proper chance to do its work and I believe that if we try to make that decision today on military action we wouldn’t have been giving the United Nations the proper time to do that work.”

He added: “The right thing to do is to put forward Labour’s amendment.”

He said he is not “against” military action and that the actions of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad “can’t simply be ignored”.

“But if we are to undertake military action then certain conditions would have to be met and what our amendment does today is it lays out a roadmap to a decision for Britain on the conditions that would have to be met.”

Asked which way he will be telling his MPs to vote in the Commons Mr Miliband said: “I’ll be advising my party to vote for our amendment.”

A Labour source added: “We will be pressing ahead with our amendment. We believe it gives a clearer road map [and] sets out clearer criteria of what must be done before any military action is taken.”

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, said he is "wrestling" with the decision of whether to support military action.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "A terrible war crime has been committed a week ago. We face a judgment, a choice, everybody does by the way, every single MP. I'm struggling with this, I'm wrestling with this."

He added: "These are no easy choices to make and there is no risk-free choice to make."

Mr Clegg said all the evidence, including the JIC findings that are being published today, showed that Syrian opposition forces were not capable of carrying out the chemical attack.

He told LBC 97.3: "All the evidence, and we will publish the findings of the Joint Intelligence Committee, their key findings, later this morning, all the evidence points in the same direction, namely that the opposition could not have done this.

"They didn't have control over the chemical stockpiles, they didn't have the weaponry in the artillery to deliver them in the way that they were delivered.

"It was in a part of Damascus, an eastern suburb of Damascus which has been subject to shelling by regime forces for several days before the attack took place and several days afterwards as well."

Asked if he would support the use of force, Mr Clegg said: "Once we've heard from the weapons inspectors, once we've brought this to the UN security council ... if then the case is made that the only way we can respond, the most effective way we can respond, in a legal, proportionate and targeted fashion to deter the further use of chemical weapons, is an isolated, one-off military initiative then I will vote for that."

There were "legal, moral and other grounds" to support action without a UN resolution, he added.

The Prime Minister was on Wednesday forced to say he will now wait for a report by United Nations weapons inspectors before seeking the approval of MPs for “direct British involvement” in the Syrian intervention.

Downing Street said the decision to wait for the UN was based on the “deep concerns” the country still harbours over the Iraq War.

MPs had been recalled to vote on a motion on Thursday expected to sanction military action. Instead, after a Labour intervention, they will debate a broader motion calling for a “humanitarian response”.

A second vote would be required before any British military involvement. This could now take place next week.

In a statement on Wednesday night Downing Street said that it only wanted to proceed on a “consensual basis” and was now wary about becoming embroiled in another divisive conflict in the Middle East in the wake of Iraq.

Senior sources had previously suggested that Britain would take part in strikes as soon as this weekend which meant an emergency recall of Parliament was necessary on Thursday.

However, following Labour threatening not to support the action and senior military figures expressing concerns over the wisdom of the mission, the Prime Minister on Wednesday night agreed to put British involvement on hold.

The climbdown was an embarrassment for Mr Cameron as he was determined to play a leading role in British military strikes, which had been expected this weekend.

The Times newspaper has reported that a Government source said of Mr Miliband: ““No 10 and the Foreign Office think Miliband is a f****** **** and a copper-bottomed s***.”

Labour had on Wednesday demanded the Prime Minister agree to hold a second vote in the Commons after the UN inspectors concluded their work.

However, during a tense telephone call between the two party leaders at 5.15pm Mr Cameron “totally ruled out” giving MPs a second vote – which would have left Downing Street’s plan for a weekend offensive in tatters.

Labour then immediately announced that it would order its MPs to vote against the Government’s motion authorising military strikes. Just minutes before 7pm Downing Street was forced to redraft the planned motion saying that “before any direct British involvement … a further vote in the House of Commons will take place”.

On Wednesday night, a senior Conservative source said: “Labour has been playing politics when they should have been thinking about the national interest. Their position has changed continuously over the last 24 hours — finally ending in demands they had never even hinted at before.”

The Americans were consulted before Mr Cameron’s decision was announced and senior White House officials are said to have made it clear that they “respect the British Parliament”.

MPs will today be asked to support the Government’s motion which states that a “strong humanitarian response is required from the international community and that this may, if necessary, require military action that is legal, proportionate and focused on saving lives by preventing and deterring further use of Syria’s chemical weapons.”

However, crucially the motion then adds: “Before any direct British involvement in such action a further vote of the House of Commons will take place.”

Ahead of Thursday’s vote, MPs will be given a dossier of evidence by Downing Street that Whitehall sources have described as “utterly compelling” proof of Assad’s involvement in chemical atrocities against his own people.

It will include details of YouTube videos believed to show atrocities being committed by the Syrian regime. Mr Hague had on Wednesday reiterated that Britain must react urgently to do “what is necessary” to protect civilians and prevent further chemical weapons attacks by Assad’s regime.

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WORLD_ Russia sends warships to Mediterranean as Syria tensions escalate

Russia sends warships to Mediterranean as Syria tensions escalate

Updated 41 minutes ago

Photo: The Russian missile cruiser, the Moskva. Russia has not said which ships have been deployed to the area. (AFP, Vasily Batanov. File.)

Russia is sending an anti-submarine ship and a missile cruiser to the Mediterranean as Western powers prepare for possible strikes against Syria.

The news comes as Britain deployed six RAF Typhoon jets to its Akrotiri base in Cyprus in a move to protect British interests as tensions grow over Syria.

Russia, who has stood staunchly behind the Syrian regime during its two-year civil war, has warned Western powers over strikes against Bashar al-Assad's forces for the use of chemical weapons.

Russia's Interfax news agency quoted a source in the armed forces' general staff as saying the warships would arrive in the coming days because of the "well-known situation" - a clear reference to the conflict in Syria.

Key points
_ Russia sends warships to the Mediterranean, but says it is nothing out of the ordinary.
_ Britain sends six Typhoon jets to base in Cyprus.
_ France says strike plans against Assad regime "difficult to develop".
_ UN team investigating chemical weapons use to leave Syria on Saturday

The navy later denied the deployment was linked to events in Syria and said it was part of a long-planned rotation of its ships in the Mediterranean.

It did not say what kind of vessels, or how many, were on their way to the region. However, the initial Interfax report had made clear that the aim was to beef up the navy's presence and not to replace the ships in the Mediterranean.

Britain also played down the presence of its fighter jets in the region.

"This is purely a prudent and precautionary measure to ensure the protection of UK interests and the defence of our sovereign base areas at a time of heightened tension in the wider region," the ministry of defence said.

It also added the jets would not take part in any direct military action against Syria.

The strategic movement of military assets comes as Western powers mull a response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by Assad forces.

Britain has been pushing for permanent members of the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution which would have authorised measures to protect civilians in Syria.

But Russia has refused to agree to the resolution and a diplomatic stalemate continues.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd earlier joined the US and Britain in condemning the use of chemical weapon in Syria, labelling it "an offence against humanity and arguably is a crime against humanity".

Plans on Syria strike 'difficult to develop'

Western plans for a strike against the Assad regime are "difficult to develop", a French government spokeswoman said on Thursday.

"The international community must find a riposte that is adapted to the situation," Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said on France 2 television.

She said it was "necessary to obtain the adhesion of several allies and partners at the heart of the UN Security Council, which we are trying to do" but added that "states like Russia and China pose a certain number of problems."

The aim of military action "will not simply be to punish the Syrian regime and prevent it from carrying out a new attack of this type ... but also to seek a way out of this crisis."

"It's extremely important for the international community, if it intervenes, to do so in a manner that the country can recover."

Her comments came after US president Barack Obama, who had warned that the Assad regime would be crossing a "red line" if it used chemical weapons, said he had not yet made a decision on retaliatory strikes.

Syria denies using chemical weapons and has blamed the opposition for the August 21 attack on a Damascus suburb that killed hundreds of civilians.

UN inspectors to pull out at the weekend

The UN team trying to determine whether chemical weapons had been used in the area will continue their investigations until Friday and plan to leave Syria by Saturday morning.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, speaking in Vienna, said he had spoken to Mr Obama on Wednesday about the situation in Syria, discussing how "we can expedite the process of investigation."

"I have also expressed [my] sincere wish that this investigation team should be allowed to continue their work as mandated by the member states," Mr Ban told reporters on Thursday.

"I told him that we will ... share information and our analysis of samples and evidence with members of the Security Council and United Nations members in general," he said.

UN chemical weapons experts on Thursday began their third day of investigations into the apparent poison gas attack.

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WORLD_ President Obama: 'I Have Not Made a Decision' on Syria

President Obama: 'I Have Not Made a Decision' on Syria

JERUSALEM, Aug. 28, 2013
By MOLLY HUNTER via Good Morning America

President Obama said today he has not made a decision on whether to launch a retaliatory strike against the Syrian government, but emphasized that when countries "break international norms" by using chemical weapons they must be held accountable.

"I have no interest in any kind of open-ended conflict in Syria, but we do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on weapons, like chemical weapons that could threaten us, that they are held accountable," Obama said in an interview today with PBS NewsHour.

As lawmakers increasingly call for the president to seek congressional approval for any military action, Obama argued the U.S. must protect its core self-interests. Obama said the U.S. government believes the regime of Bashar al-Assad was responsible for an attack that killed hundreds of people in Syria last week and that the officials believe the opposition does not possess chemical weapons that could be used on that scale.

"We want the Assad regime to understand that by using chemical weapons on a large scale against your own people, against women, against infants, against children, that you are not only breaking international norms and standards of decency, but you're also creating a situation where U.S. national interests are affected -- and that needs to stop," he said.

The president warned about the broader repercussions of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

"When you start talking about chemical weapons in a country that has the largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the world, where over time their control over chemical weapons may erode, where they're allied to known terrorist organizations that in the past have targeted the United States, then there is a prospect, a possibility in which chemical weapons that can have devastating effects could be directed at us," he said. "We want to make sure that that does not happen."

The U.N.'s special envoy to Syria announced today that evidence suggests a "chemical substance" was used to kill hundreds of people in Syria last week, but the U.N. pleaded for more time before the U.S. and allies launch a retaliatory strike against the Syrian regime.

The announcement came as the U.S., France and Britain appeared to gear up for a military strike on the Syrian regime.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said, "With what has happened on the 21st of August last week, it does seem that some kind of substance was used that killed a lot of people: hundreds, definitely more than a hundred, some people say 300, some people say 600, maybe 1,000, maybe more than 1,000 people."

But Brahimi did not place the blame on the regime or the opposition.

He added, "International law says that any U.S.-led military action must be taken after" agreement in the U.N. Security Council.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has asked for another couple of days, saying, "the team needs time to do its job" on the ground.

Video uploaded today by local activists shows the U.N. convoy entering Mleha, in the Damascus suburb of eastern Ghouta, the U.N. team's first visit to the main attack site. The U.N. convoy came under fire on Monday and the team postponed its field visit Tuesday because of security concerns.

Click Here to See ABC News' Full Coverage on the Crisis in Syria

Speaking in The Hague today, Ban joined Brahimi to urge the international community to work within the U.N. framework.

"The body entrusted with international peace and security cannot be missing in action," he said. "The council must find the unity to act. It must use its authority for peace."

Britain Requests U.N. Action, U.S. Ready to Act

Later today, Britain was expected to introduce a resolution to the U.N. Security Council "authorizing necessary measures to protect civilians" in Syria. According to a Downing Street spokesman, the U.K. would call for authorization of all measures under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which could include breaking diplomatic ties and economic sanctions, or action by air, sea or land forces.

British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted this morning, "we've always said we want the U.N. Security Council to live up to its responsibilities on Syria. Today they have an opportunity to do that."

Russia, a staunch supporter of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, and China will veto any Security Council resolution that includes military action. But the Obama administration may not wait for U.N. approval.

In an interview with the Asked if the U.S. was ready to act just "like that," Hagel said: "We are ready to go, like that."

In the last 24 hours, Washington has ramped up its case against the Syrian regime.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday that allowing "the use of chemical weapons on a significant scale to take place without a response would present a significant challenge to, threat to the United States' national security."

As the rhetoric strengthens, the administration has yet to distribute a promised intelligence report pinning the attack squarely on the Syrian regime.

On Tuesday, Syria's Foreign Minister challenged the Obama administration to show proof linking Assad to the attack.

"If they have any evidence of our use [of chemical weapons], I challenge them to show this evidence to [global] public opinion," he said at a press conference in Damascus. "It's the right of public opinion to know the truth of these allegations."

Israel on High Alert

A Syrian army source told the Iranian news agency FARS, "If Damascus comes under attack, Tel Aviv will be targeted, too."

The source added, "We are rest assured that if Syria is attacked, Israel will also be set on fire."

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also voiced his opposition to a U.S. military strike, calling it a "disaster."

"The intervention of America will be a disaster for the region," Khamenei said, according to the Iranian state news agency ISNA. "The region is like a gunpowder store and the future cannot be predicted."

Israel's cabinet has called up a limited enlistment of reserve forces and Israeli Army Radio reports Israel has reinforced its missile defenses as a precaution against possible retaliatory attacks. Israel's defensive arsenal includes the short-range Iron Dome missile interceptors, the mid-range Patriot and the long-range Arrow II.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu told his nation today, "There is no reason to change daily routines," and echoed his statement from Tuesday saying, "We are prepared for any scenario."

Israeli media reported a run on gas masks and local TV stations showed video of long lines at a free gas mask distribution center in Tel Aviv.

But Israelis aren't worried yet, according to Col. Yechiel Kuperstein, the former head of the Home Front Command's Physical Protection Department.

"Israelis can't panic," Kuperstein told told ABC News. "We know how to do it, but not at the moment. I think it is too far away. The threat is too far away for the people to be in panic."

ABC News' Alyssa Newcomb and Mary Bruce contributed to this report.

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WORLD_ Obama makes case for punishing Syria over gas attack

Obama makes case for punishing Syria over gas attack

Matt Spetalnick and Jeff Mason
9 hours ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama vowed on Wednesday that the Syrian government would face "international consequences" for last week's deadly chemical attack, but made clear any military response would be limited to avoid dragging the United States into another war in the Middle East.

Casting the need for action based on U.S. national security interests instead of humanitarian grounds, Obama made his case to a war-weary American public for what is looking like an all-but-certain use of force in Syria, where he has long been reluctant to intervene.

While saying he and allied leaders had not yet made a decision on military strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's loyalists, he left little doubt that the choice was not whether to act but when.

"We have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these out, and if that's so, then there need to be international consequences," Obama told "PBS Newshour" in a televised interview.

There were growing signs, however, that the timeline for launching any military strike on Syria could be complicated not only by the U.N. weapons inspectors' continued presence there but by the Obama administration's efforts to coordinate with international partners and growing demands for consultation with U.S. lawmakers.

On top of that, Britain - a key player in any air assault on Syria - changed its stance on Wednesday, saying the U.N. Security Council should see findings from weapons inspectors before any military action is taken and that the British parliament should vote on the matter twice.

For his part, Obama insisted that while Assad's government must be punished, he intended to avoid repeating Washington's errors from the Iraq war.

"I have no interest in any open-ended conflict in Syria, but we do have to make sure that when countries break international norms on weapons like chemical weapons that could threaten us, that they are held accountable," Obama said.

It was Obama's clearest justification yet for a tough response against Assad, who is accused of having crossed a "red line" for large-scale chemical weapons use that Obama established just over a year ago. Hundreds of people were killed in a poison gas attack on Damascus suburb last Wednesday


In Damascus on Wednesday, people left homes close to potential targets as U.S. officials sketched out plans for multi-national air strikes on Syria that could last for days. U.N. chemical weapons experts completed a second field trip to rebel-held suburbs searching for evidence.

But as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon appealed for unity among world powers and sought more time for the inspectors to complete their work, Washington and its European and Middle East allies said their minds were made up and that Assad must face retribution for using banned weapons against his people.

Syria's government, supported notably by its main arms supplier Russia, cried foul. It blamed rebel "terrorists" for releasing the toxins with the help of the United States, Britain and France, and warned it would be a "graveyard of invaders."

Syrian officials say the West is playing into the hands of its al Qaeda enemies. The presence of Islamist militants among the rebels has deterred Western powers from arming Assad's foes. But the West says it must now act to stop the use of poison gas.

Britain pushed the other four veto-holding members of the U.N. Security Council at a meeting in New York to authorize military action against Assad to protect Syrian civilians - a move certain to be blocked by Russia and, probably, China. The meeting ended without a decision.

The United States and its allies say a U.N. veto will not stop them. Western diplomats called the proposed resolution a maneuver to isolate Moscow and rally a coalition behind air strikes. Arab states, NATO and Turkey also condemned Assad.

But British Prime Minister David Cameron was forced on Wednesday to push back his timetable after coming under fierce domestic and international pressure, and it was unclear how that might affect any Syria attack plans.

Just a day after recalling Britain's parliament to vote on how to respond to Syria's suspected use of chemical weapons, Cameron was ambushed when the opposition Labour party said it wanted greater parliamentary scrutiny and rebel lawmakers in his own ruling Conservative Party said they would oppose him.

(Additional reporting by Oliver Holmes, Erika Solomon, William Maclean and Mariam Karouny in Beirut, Guy Faulconbridge and Andrew Osborn in London, Steve Gutterman in Moscow, Tom Miles and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Yeganeh Torbati and Yara Bayoumy in Dubai, Anthony Deutsch and Thomas Escritt in The Hague, Ben Blanchard in Beijing, Arshad Mohammed, Mark Hosenball, Matt Spetalnick and Patricia Zengerle and Phil Stewart in Washington; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Will Waterman, David Stamp and Peter Cooney) .

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POLITICS_ US prepares to bypass UN on Syria response

US prepares to bypass UN on Syria response

Published August 28, 2013
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The State Department made clear Wednesday that the Obama administration plans to bypass the United Nations Security Council as it prepares for a possible strike on Syria, after having failed to win support from Russia.

In blunt terms, department spokeswoman Marie Harf said last-ditch efforts to win support for an anti-Assad resolution at the U.N. were unsuccessful, and the U.S. would proceed anyway.

"We see no avenue forward given continued Russian opposition to any meaningful council action on Syria," she said. "Therefore, the United States will continue its consultations and will take appropriate actions to respond in the days ahead."

Earlier in the day, the U.S. and its allies tried to advance a resolution from Great Britain condemning the alleged chemical attack last week in Syria, and authorizing "necessary measures to protect civilians." The Russian delegation, traditional supporters of the Assad government, immediately complained about the resolution during the discussions at U.N. headquarters in New York.

Harf said the U.N. Security Council would not be proceeding with a vote.

Launching a military strike without U.N. authorization would not be without precedent -- the U.S. acted unilaterally during the 1983 invasion of Grenada, the 1989 invasion of Panama, and missile strikes on Sudan and Afghanistan in 1998.

But in this case, the U.N.'s special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, is urging the U.S. to seek and obtain Security Council approval.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also urged the U.S. and its allies to wait until U.N. inspectors currently in Syria finish their work investigating last week's attack.

Harf and other U.S. officials have argued that the U.S. is obligated to respond, given the Assad regime's alleged breach of international standards on chemical weapons, in a grisly attack that reportedly killed hundreds. The images from that attack, coupled with other evidence, led Secretary of State John Kerry to declare earlier this week that the use of the weapons was "undeniable."

"It's clear Syria violated international law here," Harf said. She rejected the suggestion that the U.S. was bypassing the international community, noting that top U.S. officials have been consulting all week with leaders of other nations about the situation in Syria.

By the end of the week, the U.S. intelligence community is expected to release evidence making the case that the Assad regime used chemical weapons. British Prime Minister David Cameron is seeking a vote in Parliament on Thursday in support of responding in Syria.

Additionally, the Obama administration announced Wednesday it will meet with key House and Senate members and top Congressional leaders Thursday to brief them on intelligence and plans for possible strikes against Syria.

Some members of Congress have demanded Obama seek their approval as well -- or at least greater consultation -- before proceeding.

Sources tell Fox News lawmakers are expressing significant concern about efforts by the administration to act in Syria, and are worried about the possible outcome of a bombing attack.

Lawmakers want to know what the endgame is with Syria, why the U.S. is acting now and what it is expecting as an outcome.

House Speaker Boehner sent a letter to Obama Wednesday asking him to personally explain to the nation and Congress how U.S. military action against Syria will secure American national security.

"It is essential you address on what basis any use of force would be legally justified and how the justification comports with the exclusive authority of Congressional authorization under Article I of the Constitution," Boehner writes.

Additionally, Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., issued a blistering statement about the possibility that Obama would proceed with a strike without congressional authorization.

"The President's authority as Commander-in-Chief to order a military attack on a foreign government is implicitly limited by the Constitution to repelling an attack," he said.

Further, he noted that the 1973 War Powers Resolution, which has been repeatedly ignored by U.S. presidents, dictates that the president cannot send forces into hostilities for a non-retaliatory strike without a declaration of war or approval from Congress.

Read more:

Chân thành cám ơn Quý Anh Chị ghé thăm "conbenho Nguyễn Hoài Trang Blog".
Xin được lắng nghe ý kiến chia sẻ của Quý Anh Chị 
trực tiếp tại Diễn Đàn Paltalk: 
1Latdo Tapdoan Vietgian CSVN Phanquoc Bannuoc . 

Kính chúc Sức Khỏe Quý Anh Chị . 

Tiểu Muội quantu
Nguyễn Hoài Trang

Cộng sản Việt Nam là TỘI ÁC
Bao che, dung dưỡng TỘI ÁC là đồng lõa với TỘI ÁC