Two top Republicans emerged from a meeting with President Obama Monday and
offered at least conditional support for the president's approach to Syria.
Obama has asked Congress to approve limited strikes on Syria to punish the Bashar Assad regime for gas attacks on its citizens.
After a meeting at the White House, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told the president it's been a year since Obama said the use of gas would cross a "red line" bringing a Western response and two years since the president said there must be regime change in Syria.
"We emphasized the importance we place to actions that would degrade Bashar Assad's capabilities [and] upgrade the opposition and to change the momentum on the ground," McCain said. Opposition forces in Syria have been losing exchanges with the Syrian army.
"That does not mean that any of us support even a limited boots on the ground" plan, McCain added.
Graham said, "There seems to be emerging from this administration a pretty solid plan to upgrade the opposition."
Earlier Monday, a Russian official said his country was "not convinced" by the U.S. claims that Syrian President Assad's regime has used chemical weapons.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed U.S. evidence during an appearance at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. The Wall Street Journal reported.
"That which our American partners have shown us both in the past and recently ... absolutely has not convinced us," Lavrov said.
"There are no facts, there is just dialogue about 'what we know for sure,'" Lavrov said. "And when we ask for more detailed confirmation, they say, 'You know, it's all secret, so we can't show you.' That means such facts aren't there."
Meanwhile, key lawmakers in the United States said President Obama's resolution to approve bombings against Syria is unacceptable.
"I know it will be amended by the Senate," Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Senate's longest-serving member, told reporters after a more than 2 1/2-hour classified briefing that drew 83 lawmakers of both parties and both chambers to the Capitol for a rare Labor Day weekend meeting.
The briefing was conducted by officials from the White House, the State Department, Defense Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said after the briefing he "would be shocked" if Congress didn't amend the resolution.
Leahy said the current wording was too open-ended.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., who inspected chemical attacks by Saddam Hussein's regime against Iraqi citizens in the 1980s, said he would push to see a provision in the resolution prohibiting U.S. troops from being sent into Syria and "some time limits" placed on the proposed military action.
Obama has described action as a way of punishing Assad for using weapons the administration describes as nerve gas in an attack that killed more than 1,400 people last month, including more than 400 children.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., a former Intelligence Committee chairman, said the administration promised "to come back with a more prescribed resolution."
Even with tighter wording, winning approval of a limited strike will still be
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