US Senate panel approves Syria military strikes

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Syrian army soldiers evacuate a comrade injured during heavy clashes with Syrian rebels in the Jobar neighborhood of Damascus, Syria, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013. AP
The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee has authorised the use of military force against Syria for allegedly using chemical weapons.
By 10-7, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations moved the measure to a full Senate vote, expected next week.
The much-debated measure allows the use of limited military force in Syria for 90 days,
It also prevents the use of US troops on the ground.
Despite Wednesday\’s vote, the bill\’s fate in the wider Senate is still unclear.
So far, only 21 senators have said they support or are likely to support the resolution, according to a tally by ABC News.
Thirteen have said they oppose or are likely to oppose the resolution, while 66 votes are undecided or unknown.

President Barack Obama has said the world had set a red line over the "abhorrent use of chemical weapons", and that the credibility of the US and international community was at stake over its response to Syria.
Speaking at a news conference in Stockholm with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, Obama says he did not set a "red line" regarding a use of chemical weapons, but that the line was set when world powers approved a treaty against the use of chemical weapons.
Obama said he and the Swedish prime minister were in agreement that the international community could not be silent in the face of "barbarism" in Syria and that a failure to act would increase the possibility of further attacks.
Obama is on a one-day visit to Stockholm before flying on to Russia for the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, where Syria is expected to be high on the agenda.
He added that he hoped his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, would change direction on a military intervention in Syria. Russia is Syria\’s biggest international ally.
"I\’m always hopeful … Ultimately, we can end deaths much more rapidly if Russia takes a different approach to these problems," he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned America and its allies against taking one-sided action in Syria.
He said any military strikes without UN approval would be "an aggression".
He says that such an endorsement would require "convincing" evidence that President Bashar al-Assad\’s government used chemical weapons against citizens.
He also says the currently available evidence does not fulfil this criteria.
In a wide-ranging interview with the Associated Press news agency and Russia\’s state Channel 1 television, Putin said it would be "absolutely absurd" for Assad\’s forces to have used chemical weapons at a time when they were in the ascendency in the conflict.
"From our viewpoint, it seems absolutely absurd that the armed forces, the regular armed forces, which are on the offensive today and in some areas have encircled the so-called rebels and are finishing them off, that in these conditions they would start using forbidden chemical weapons while realising quite well that it could serve as a pretext for applying sanctions against them, including the use of force," Putin said in the interview, released on Wednesday.
"If there is evidence that chemical weapons were used, and by the regular army… then this evidence must be presented to the UN Security Council. And it must be convincing,"  Putin said.
He confirmed that Russia had delivered some components of S-300 missile systems to Syria but deliveries had now been "suspended".
The Syrian government has denied chemical weapons use by the military.
In another development, French President Francois Hollande said he will wait to see if Obama receives support from Congress before deciding on a French role in any military intervention. France had earlier voiced support for military strikes against the Syrian government.
Later on Tuesday, the U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said that military action was only justified if in self-defence or with a UN mandate.
"The use of force is lawful only when in exercise of self-defence in accordance with Article 51 of the United Nations Charter and, or when the Security Council approves such action."
But he said the U.N. Security Council should unite if it was proved that chemical weapons were used in Syria by any side.
"If confirmed, any use of chemical weapons by anyone under any circumstances will be a serious violation of international law and outrageous war crime," he said in a video statement. "Any perpetrators must be brought to justice. There should be no impunity."
He told reporters on Tuesday that a U.N. inspection team that collected samples, last week, at the site of the suspected chemical attack near Damascus is working around the clock to prepare its information. 
The number of refugees fleeing Syria\’s bloody civil war has surged past the 2 million mark, with almost 5,000 people crossing into that country\’s neighbors every day, according to a new report from the United Nations Refugee Agency issued Tuesday.
In a statement Tuesday, UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres called the situation "a disgraceful humanitarian calamity" not seen in recent history.
Most of the refugees have gone to neighboring countries, including Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq, where governments have had to cope with the strain of hundreds of thousands of people in need.
The U.N. says many of the refugees are leaving Syria with little more than the clothes on their back, and that half of them are children. It has made appeals for international aid, but said Tuesday it has received only 47 percent of the money required to meet the basic needs of the refugees.
With another 4.25 million people displaced within Syria, the conflict has forced more than a quarter of the country\’s population to leave their homes.
On Tuesday, Sweden announced it would become the first European country to grant asylum to all Syrian refugees who apply. They will get permanent resident status.
Sweden has taken in 14,700 asylum seekers from Syria since 2012.
The UN says this is the worst refugee crisis for 20 years, with numbers not seen since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
More than 100,000 people are estimated to have died since the conflict erupted in Syria in March 2011, and the conflict has produced at least 1.7 million refugees.
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Source: Agencies

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