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On the brink: Obama to seek Congressional nod for Syria strike

Washington: Failing to find support at home and abroad for military action in a hurry against Syria, US President Barack Obama said Saturday he will seek the approval of Congress before carrying out a military strike.

The United States "should take military action against Syrian targets" for its alleged use of chemical weapons in an Aug 21 attack on areas controlled by the opposition, he said in a Rose Garden address Saturday with Vice President Biden standing by his side.

However, before carrying out a military strike against the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, he would seek Congressional approval when Congress returns from recess on Sep 9, Obama said.

The president appealed for congressional leaders to consider their responsibilities and values in debating US military action in Syria over its alleged chemical weapons use.

US President Barack Obama. Reuters

US President Barack Obama. Reuters

"Some things are more important than partisan differences or the politics of the moment," he said. "Today I'm asking Congress to send a message to the world that we are united as one nation."

Obama said Congressional leaders have agreed to schedule a debate and vote when they return to session. But he did not say if he'd forgo a strike if Congress rejects his call to action.

"This attack is an assault on human dignity," Obama said. "It also presents a serious danger to our national security."

"Over the last several days, we've heard from several members of Congress who want their voices to be heard," he said. "I absolutely agree."

The remarks came amid a flurry of briefings for sceptical lawmakers by the president's national security team.

The shouts from hundreds of activists outside the White House protesting against military action could be heard from the Rose Garden shortly before Obama spoke.

Meanwhile, as UN inspectors headed home from Syria carrying evidence about the alleged use of chemical weapons, UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky told reporters at UN headquarters the samples need to be analysed.

The aim of the game here, the mandate, is very clear -- and that is to ascertain whether chemical weapons were used and not by whom," he said. "It needs time to be able to analyse the information and the samples," Nesirky said.

He noted that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said there is no alternative to a political solution to the crisis in Syria. "A military solution is not an option," he said.

IANS