U.S. President Barack Obama has delayed an expected military strike against Syria, instead telling Americans he will seek congressional approval to punish the Syrian government for its alleged use of chemical weapons.
In a Saturday address at the White House, Mr. Obama said he has decided the United States should take military action against Syrian government targets. But he said that while he believes he has the authority to order a strike, he also thinks it is important for the country to have a debate on the issue.
Later Saturday, President Obama formally asked Congress to allow him to use military force in Syria to "deter, disrupt, prevent and degrade" the potential for more chemical attacks.
The president ruled out any action that would put American ground troops in Syria.
He called what happened in Damascus nearly two weeks ago the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century, and he said the U.S. must not turn a 'blind eye" to it.
U.S. congressional leaders responded by saying they expect the House and Senate to take up the matter when they return from their summer recess the week of September 9.
In the region, a United Nations inspection team wrapped up its work in Syria and left the country Saturday. A spokesman for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the U.N. chief will get a briefing on Sunday from the head of the inspection team. There is no word about when the team will present its full report. The U.N. spokesman said the team collected samples that will be analyzed in laboratories, as well as witness statements and interviews with doctors and survivors.
The Syrian government has denied having any role in chemical weapons attacks. But Mr. Obama said U.S. intelligence is clear that "well over 1,000 people" were murdered -- gassed to death by their own government.
Protesters around the world took to the streets on Saturday to protest for and against a possible U.S.-led attack on Syria.
Amnesty International issued a statement calling on the U.S. Security Council to refer the Syrian situation to the International Criminal Court, to impose an arms embargo on the Syrian government, and to deploy international monitors to investigate and report on human rights abuses in Syria.