Obama says US should strike Syria, will seek congressional vote

Cuban former president Fidel Castro talks to a young boy, Marlon Mendez, at his house on August 16, 2014 in Havana (AFP)
President Barack Obama says he has decided that the United States should take military action against Syria in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack. 
Obama said on Saturday that the US had presented a "powerful case" linking the Syrian government to an alleged chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs last week.
"It is a danger to our national security," he said, "that risks making a mockery of the global prohibition on the use of chemical weapons."
In a brief statement delivered at the White House, Obama told reporters that the US military was prepared to launch a "limited" strike, which analysts say will likely entail firing cruise missiles at Syrian army targets.
"I\’m confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons and deter this kind of behaviour and degrade their capacity to carry it out," he said.
The president made no mention of when he will seek authorisation from Congress, but lawmakers are scheduled to return from recess on September 9.
The US says its intelligence reports indicate the Syrian government carried out chemical weapons attacks on 21 August in which 1,429 people died.
The Syrian government denies it was behind the attacks and blames rebels.
But what is unclear is what action he would take if Congress votes against involvement.
On Thursday, British MPs defeated a government motion to take part in any military action in Syria.
After the president\’s address UK Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted: "I understand and support Barack Obama\’s position".
Obama did not speak to Mr Cameron before his statement but did call President Hollande of France, the White House said.
France has also backed military action in Syria. The French parliament is due to reconvene next week.
France will wait for discussions in the US Congress and French parliament before making a decision on military intervention, a French official told the Associated Press.
UN inspectors have now left Syria with samples from site visits, which will go to laboratories in Europe for testing.
Russia\’s President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that it would be "utter nonsense" for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons when it was winning the war, and urged U.S. President Barack Obama not to attack Syrian forces.
Putin challenged Washington to present the evidence behind its claims to the United Nations Security Council.
The United States said on Friday it was planning a limited military response to punish Syria\’s President Bashar al-Assad for a "brutal and flagrant" chemical weapons attack that it says killed more than 1,400 people in Damascus 10 days ago.
But speaking to journalists in the Russian far-eastern city of Vladivostok, Putin urged  Obama – as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate – to think about future victims in Syria before using force.
He said it was ridiculous to suggest the Syrian government was to blame for the 21 August attack.
"Syrian government troops are on the offensive and have surrounded the opposition in several regions," he said.
In these conditions, to give a trump card to those who are calling for a military intervention is utter nonsense."
Russia – a key ally of Syria – has previously warned that "any unilateral military action bypassing the UN Security Council" would be a "direct violation of international law".
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said his country will defend itself against any Western "aggression".
UN officials say it may take weeks to analyse the samples gathered and to present conclusions, and UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky said that the inspectors would return to the country to investigate several other alleged chemical weapons attacks that have taken place during the country\’s two-and-a-half year uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
Many U.S. voters and several members of Congress remain skeptical about the need for any U.S. involvement in Syria.  That sentiment is shared in other parts of the world.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said his country will defend itself against any Western "aggression".
More than 100,000 people have died since the conflict erupted in March 2011 and two million have become refugees, half of them children, according to the United Nations.
Source: Agencies
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