Critical week for Obama's presidency as he pushes Congress for backing on Syria
Barack Obama is preparing his final public arguments for strikes against Syria before Congress takes its first vote on the issue this week.
Syrian president Bashar Assad warned there will be retaliation against the US for any military strike launched in response to a chemical weapons attack, warning in a US TV interview: "You should expect everything."
Assad also denied making a decision to use chemical weapons against his own people, and he said there is no conclusive evidence about who is to blame..
Even before the CBS interview was released, the White House criticised it. "It doesn't surprise us that someone who would kill thousands of his own people, including hundreds of children with poison gas, would also lie about it," a spokeswoman said.
Mr Obama on Tuesday addresses the nation in a prime-time speech on Syria from the White House.
Congress is set to have its first votes authorising limited strikes into Syria as early as Wednesday. The resolution would authorize the "limited and specified use" of US armed forces against Syria for no more than 90 days.
Secretary of State John Kerry said of Assad: "What does he offer? Words that are contradicted by fact."
He said that if Assad wanted to defuse the crisis, "he could turn every single bit of his chemical weapons over to the international community" within a week. But he said that Assad "isn't about to do it."
Meanwhile, Russian and Syrian foreign ministers said they will push for the return of United Nations inspectors to Syria to continue their probe into the use of chemical weapons. Russia's Sergey Lavrov said after talks with his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Moallem that Moscow will continue to promote a peaceful settlement and may try to convene a gathering of all Syrian opposition figures who are interested in peaceful settlement.
Mr Obama and his allies were arguing that the United States needs to remind hostile nations such as Iran and North Korea of American military might. But they have to reassure the nation that the lessons of the last decade were fresh in their minds.
Despite public backing from leaders of both top political parties to strike, almost half of the 433 current members in the House and a third of the 100-member Senate remain undecided, an Associated Press survey found.
Public opinion surveys show intense American scepticism about military intervention in Syria, even among those who believe Syria's government used chemical weapons on its people.