News Column

Obama Says World Credibility 'on the Line' With Syria

September 4, 2013
President Obama (file photo)

US President Barack Obama said Wednesday the world had a responsibility to take action in Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

"My credibility is not on the line. The international community's credibility is on the line," Obama said while in Sweden.

"I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line."

Obama, seeking to muster support for military action against al-Assad's regime, said he was convinced the Syrian government had deployed chemical weapons.

"We believe with high confidence that chemical weapons were used and that Assad was the source."

Obama was visiting Sweden before attending a G20 summit in the Russian city of St Petersburg on Thursday. Syria is expected to dominate the gathering.

"We can send a clear strong message in favour of the prohibition against chemical weapons," said Obama.

The US has repeatedly accused al-Assad's regime of using chemical weapons in an attack near Damascus on August 21, which Washington says killed 1,429 people.

The Syrian government has denied responsibility.

Obama said he believed Congress would back his plan for military action in Syria.

"I think Congress will approve it ... I would not have taken this before Congress just as a symbolic gesture."

Congress is expected to hold a vote early next week. The president won the support of key conservative lawmakers on Wednesday, including Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner.

Obama said that any US military action would be "stronger" if the White House and Congress acted in concert.

While Obama was en route to Stockholm, Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted for the first time that Moscow might back a United Nations resolution for military intervention in Syria.

In an interview broadcast on Russian state television, Putin said he does not exclude supporting a US strike if there is strong evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons.

However, an attack against a sovereign state could only be sanctioned by the UN Security Council, he added.

"To use any other means to justify the use of force ... is unacceptable and cannot be qualified otherwise than aggression," Putin said.

Russia is Syria's major ally and arms supplier.

"If somebody has evidence that chemical weapons were used, that is by the regular armed forces, then those facts must be presented to the UN Security Council," Putin said.

"Once there are objective facts about who committed those crimes, there will be a reaction."

In Sweden, Obama said he will continue efforts to persuade Russia to engage in a solution on Syria and that he was "always hopeful."

The US Senate's foreign relations committee Tuesday agreed on the wording of a resolution that would authorize limited use of military force against Syria.

After a three-and-a-half-hour hearing, the members put forward a resolution that would permit up to 90 days of military action, after an initial period of 60 days. Another 30 days would be possible depending on Obama's notification of Congress.

Within 30 days of enactment of the resolution, Obama would have to inform Congress on a plan for a diplomatic solution.

The committee is expected to officially green-light the action in a vote later Wednesday.

The British parliament last week voted against committing the British military, while the French parliament was debating the issue on Wednesday.

Like Obama, French President Francois Hollande is not required by the constitution to obtain parliament's approval before taking the country to war.

However, a CSA poll for BFM TV showed 74 per cent of French people wanted parliament to decide the matter.

In Syria, a prominent taekwondo player was killed Wednesday when a mortar bomb fell on a sports facility in central Damascus, the state news agency SANA reported.

Mohammed Nehme of the Syrian taekwondo team was killed and seven injured in the attack on the al-Fayhaa sports, added the agency.

Nehme, 27, was Syria's taekwondo champion for several years and won several medals in international competitions, according to the report.

SANA blamed the attack of what it called "terrorists" - a term referring to opposition forces fighting to oust al-Assad.

Human Rights Watch has accused the Syrian government of continuing to use cluster munitions in the 29-month conflict.

The watchdog said Wednesday it had identified 152 separate locations where government forces used at least 204 cluster munitions from July 2012 until June 2013, in nine of the country's 14 governorates.

Cluster munitions have been banned because of their widespread indiscriminate effect at the time of use, and the long-lasting danger they pose to civilians.


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## dpa Contacts - Reporting by: Ramadan Al-Fatah, Clare Byrne, Nikolaus von Twickel, Weedah Hamzah and Lennart Simonsson - Editing by: - Tel: +49 30 2852 31472;

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Source: Copyright Deutsche Presse-Agentur ??? Engl 2013

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