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    Two Top US Senators: Obama Plan for Syria Emerging

    Two key U.S. senators say the Obama administration is putting together a solid plan to boost the Syrian opposition and help drive Bashar al-Assad from power.

    Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham -- two supporters of strong action against Syria -- met with President Barack Obama at the White House Monday.

    McCain later said he has reason to believe that any U.S. military strike against Syria would be more serious than cosmetic.

    Graham said there can never be a political solution in Syria as long as Mr. Assad's forces are winning.

    Both senators criticized the Obama administration for not acting sooner in Syria by arming the rebels. They said the Syrian army has been getting weapons from Russia and Iran for two years, making it an unfair fight.



    Mr. Obama has said he wants congressional approval before launching a military strike on Syria for allegedly dropping chemical weapons on civilians. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee begins hearings Tuesday on what to do in Syria.

    Also Tuesday, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will brief members of the Security Council on the latest developments in Syria. Mr. Ban has met with the head of the U.N. inspection team in Syria, Ake Sellstrom. The team has collected samples from the soil and the victims of last month's chemical weapons attack on civilians near Damascus. More than 1,400 people were killed.

    In an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro, Syrian President Assad called the charge that his military was responsible for the poison gas illogical. He said the U.S. and France -- which also backs military action against Syria -- have no proof. Mr. Assad also warned that a military strike by the U.S. or France could start a regional war.

    Russia, a long-time Syrian ally, questions the credibility of U.S. evidence that the Assad government used chemical weapons on civilians.

    Meanwhile, the United Nations refugee agency says much more money is needed to help the ever-growing number of Syrians forced to flee the fighting. The UNHCR says it has received only about $70 million of the $250 million it needs to help the refugees.

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