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September 10, 2013

Obama, Congress Discuss Syria Amid Diplomacy Hopes

by VOA News

U.S. President Barack Obama heads to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to meet with lawmakers after cautiously welcoming a Russian proposal to secure Syria's chemical weapons without the need for U.S. airstrikes.

Obama has been lobbying members of Congress to support a measure authorizing U.S. military force, but said Monday he "overwhelmingly" prefers diplomacy in deterring Syria's use of chemical weapons.

The president also noted in a series of interviews Monday that a majority of Americans do not want the U.S. to take military action. He will use a televised address Tuesday evening to discuss the situation.

Obama called the Russian plan to put Syria's stockpile under international control a potential breakthrough, but stressed that it would not have materialized without the threat of military action.

He acknowledged there may not be enough support among lawmakers to pass a proposed measure authorizing U.S. airstrikes. A Senate resolution would give Mr. Obama a maximum of 90 days to carry out an attack, but would not approve 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.

The president said he had an impromptu chat with President Vladimir Putin last week at the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia about the idea of securing Syria's chemical weapons. He has instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to talk to the Russians about specifics of the proposal.

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.