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September 10, 2013

Obama: Syria Could Prevent Airstrike by Turning Over Chemical Weapons

by Kent Klein

President Barack Obama says a proposal to put Syrian chemical weapons under international control could prevent U.S. military strikes on Syria.  The president has been making his case for military strikes to Congress and the American people after Syria’s alleged chemical attack on civilians.

Obama told the PBS Newshour Monday that he has instructed Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss with Russia the proposal for Syria to surrender its chemical weapons.

“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 am all for it," the president said.  "But we are going to have to see specifics.”

The president also told ABC World News that Syria could prevent U.S. airstrikes by turning over its chemical weapons.

“Absolutely, if, in fact, that happened.  And so, I consider this a modestly positive development,” he said.
 
Syria's government Monday welcomed Russia's initiative.

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton met with Obama at the White House Monday and conditionally backed Russia's proposal.
 
“That would be an important step," Clinton noted. "But this cannot be another excuse for delay or obstruction.  And Russia has to support the international community’s efforts sincerely or be held to account.”

Since announcing that he would seek authorization from Congress for U.S. strikes on Syria, President Obama has been campaigning to gain support for those strikes -- speaking with congressional leaders at the White House, with world leaders at last week’s G20 Summit in Russia and Monday, in interviews with U.S. television news programs.

The president’s efforts are building toward a rare, televised evening address to the nation, likely his final appeal to the American people.

Public opinion polls show that a majority of Americans oppose U.S. military action in Syria.  

And the proposal to launch strikes on Syria faces stiff opposition in Congress.

Obama told the PBS Newshour he understands the odds against getting Congress to approve his request.

“I also want to make the case, though, that it is in our long-term national security interests to make sure that this chemical weapons ban is enforced,” he stressed.

Other members of the administration also have been making the case.

National Security Adviser Susan Rice, at Washington’s New America Foundation, said the military action the president wants would not mark the start of another war.
  
“There will be no boots on the ground, period.  Nor would it resemble Kosovo or Libya, which were sustained air campaigns.  This will not be an open-ended effort,” Rice stated.

In the meantime, the administration says it continues to prepare for possible military action against Syria.