Obama says he prefers diplomacy over military action

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Obama said he would continue to press the US Congress to back a resolution authorising him to take military action against Syria, but he implied the timeline for action had shifted. AFP
U.S. President Barack Obama says he overwhelmingly prefers to use diplomacy rather than a military strike to make sure the Syrian government\’s use of chemical weapons never happens again, adding that a new Russian proposal to put Syria\’s chemical weapons stockpile under international control to avoid a U.S. military strike could be a potential breakthrough.
In a series of television interviews Monday, Obama expressed skepticism about a new Russian proposal to put Syria\’s chemical weapons stockpile under international control, but called the plan a potential breakthrough. He said it would not have materialized without the threat of military action.
Obama is continuing meetings with members of Congress on Tuesday before giving an evening televised address on the situation in Syria.
He acknowledged Monday there may not be enough support among lawmakers to pass a proposed measure authorizing U.S. military action. A Senate resolution would give Obama a maximum of 90 days to carry out an attack, but would not authorize the use of ground troops.
The Senate was due to hold a preliminary vote on Wednesday, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delayed the vote late Monday to give more time to consider the new Russian proposal.
Obama also noted that a majority of Americans do not want the U.S. to take military action, but he said he believes it is a matter of national security to ensure that bans against the use of chemical weapons are maintained.
It began with Secretery of State John Kerry saying, in response to a reporter\’s question, that there would be no need for military action if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad handed over his chemical weapons – an answer that was then presented by Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, as a workable plan.
The US administration at first stated that Kerry\’s response was only rhetorical, but within hours the president said in interviews with six US networks that a diplomatic solution should be sought.
Obama said on CNN that the Russian plan was "a potentially positive development", while on NBC he said it could be a "significant breakthrough".
He told PBS: "I have instructed John Kerry to talk directly to the Russians and run this to ground and if we can exhaust these diplomatic efforts and come up with a formula that gives the international community a verifiable enforceable mechanism to deal with these chemical weapons in Syria then I\’m all for it."
Syria has welcomed the idea that it turn its chemical weapons over for destruction, to avoid a U.S. military strike. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also has endorsed the idea.
More than 100,000 people have been killed in the conflict, and the UN refugee agency says about one third of Syria\’s pre-war population of 20.8 million have fled their homes, either to other countries or safer areas within Syria.
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Source: Agencies

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