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Kerry Seeks EU Support On Syria

  • VOA News

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) meets with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton before a meeting of EU ministers of foreign affairs at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius, Sept. 7, 2013.
Washington's top diplomat is meeting with European foreign ministers to muster support for U.S. military action against Syria.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held informal discussions with his fellow diplomats Saturday in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, which currently holds the European Union's rotating chair.

Kerry's contemporaries are split on Syria, with most urging the U.S. to hold off any military action until United Nations inspectors report on the use of chemical weapons in Syria.

The talks take place after the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, where U.S. President Barack Obama held various bilateral meetings with leaders of the world's major economies. He had support from French, Turkish and some other leaders, but Russian President Vladimir Putin remained adamantly opposed to any attack on the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Back in Washington, Obama will take his case for targeted military strikes on Damascus directly to the American people in a televised speech Tuesday. The president, who returned to Washington late Friday, has argued that the Assad government has violated an international ban and committed horrendous murders of civilians, a crime which he says cannot go unanswered.

Earlier Friday, in St. Petersburg, Obama said any strike on Syria would be aimed at degrading the government's chemical weapons capacity. But, he said, the world must continue working toward a transition that can restore stability, prosperity, peace and legitimacy to Syria.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power says the U.S. administration plan for limited military action against Syria is the least the world powers should do.

Speaking in Washington Friday, she said President Assad has an enormous stockpile of illegal chemical weapons, and recent activity has barely "put a dent" in his arsenal. And, Power said, the international community has not put a dent in Mr. Assad's willingness to use chemical weapons.

U.S. officials say they have evidence that more than 1,400 people were killed by poison gas in an attack on August 21 in areas on the fringe of Damascus populated by supporters of the opposition.