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US to strike Syria without UNSC nod: Obama

01 September, 2013

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WASHINGTON: President Obama on Friday announced that the US will strike Syria at some point in the future, but it won't be happening until at least after September 9, when Congress resumes and the issue will be put to a vote.

"Today I am asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are ready to move forward as one nation," Obama said.

The president announced he believes the US "should" seek military action against Syria for the chemical weapons attacks that killed more than 1,400 people, including hundreds of children.

"I have decided that the US should take military action against regime targets," he said, before explaining that he was prepared to go forward without the approval of the UN Security Council, and that the attack would be "limited in duration and scope," with no "boots on the ground."

"We are prepared to strike whenever we choose," Obama told reporters.

The president used the last half of his speech to explain himself to the American people. "I know well we are weary of war," he said at one point, before clarifying that "we are not comfortable putting our troops in the middle of someone else's war." But the crimes committed are too much to ignore, he said.

"What message will we send if a dictator can gas hundreds of children to death in plain sight and pay no price?" And the US cannot turn a blind eye to something so heinous. It's not in the country's nature. "We are the United States of America. We cannot and must not turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus," Obama said.

Obama said the chemical weapons attack in Syria threatened US allies Israel, Turkey and Jordan and that while "nobody ends up being more war weary than me" he is considering a narrow, limited US response.

So now all the power falls to the Congress, where a debate and vote will be over whether or not the US should attack. Speaker of the House John Boehner already announced the House will hold a vote on the week of September 9 to see if the country should strike: "Under the Constitution, the responsibility to declare war lies with the Congress. We are glad the president is seeking authorisation for any military action in Syria in response to serious, substantive questions being raised. In consultation with the president, we expect the House to consider a measure the week of September 9. This provides the president time to make his case to Congress and the American people."

President Barack Obama planned to provide an update to the nation on Saturday about his decisions on how to proceed in Syria amid preparations for a potential military strike.

Obama was to appear in the White House Rose Garden at 1:15 p.m. EDT (1715 GMT) to deliver a statement.

A White House official said his remarks were not an address about imminent military operations in Syria, but rather an update about his decisions on how to proceed in response to a Syrian chemical weapons attack Aug. 21 that US officials say killed 1,429 people.

The remarks were prepared after Obama's top national security advisers gathered at the White House for talks, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey.

They were to give senators an unclassified briefing on the Syria situation in conference calls. Members of the House of Representatives are to receive a classified briefing on Sunday from White House officials, a notice from House Speaker John Boehner's office said.

The United Nations on Saturday vehemently rejected suggestions that the world body was somehow stepping aside to allow US air strikes on Syria, saying its humanitarian work in the conflict-ravaged country would continue.

"I have seen all kinds of reporting suggesting that the departure of the chemical weapons team somehow opens a window for military action of some kind," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters.

"Frankly, that's grotesque, and it's also an affront to the more than 1,000 staff, UN staff, who are on the ground in Syria delivering humanitarian aid and who will continue to deliver critical aid," he said.

UN experts arrived in the Netherlands with evidence gathered in their investigation of a poison gas attack in Syria.

Nesirky repeated that the inspectors would return later to investigate several other alleged poison gas attacks that have taken place in Syria during the country's 2-1/2-year civil war.

He also responded to US Secretary of State John Kerry's remarks on Friday that the UN chemical weapons experts cannot provide any information that the United States, which blames Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for last week's attack that Washington said killed hundreds, does not already have.

"The United Nations mission is uniquely capable of establishing in an impartial and credible manner the facts of any use of chemical weapons based directly on evidence collected on the ground," he said.

In Syria, a government official said they expect a military attack "at any moment" and are ready to retaliate.

"We are expecting an attack at any moment. We are ready to retaliate at any moment," the security official told AFP, asking not to be named.

End.

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