Saturday 20 January 2018

Obama pushes for backing on Syria

President Barack Obama will address the US nation in a prime-time speech on Syria (AP)
President Barack Obama will address the US nation in a prime-time speech on Syria (AP)
John Kerry has called on Syria to hand over its chemical weapons arsenal (AP)
The Obama administration is attempting to reassure sceptics that the US is not heading towards another Iraq or Afghanistan (AP)

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."

His remarks were backed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that if such a move would help avert a possible US strike on Syria, Russia will start work "immediately" to persuade Syria to relinquish control over its chemical arsenals. Mr Lavrov said that Russia would urge Syria to concentrate its chemical weapons in certain areas under international oversight and then dismantle them.

Meanwhile, he and Syria's foreign minister said they will push for the return of United Nations inspectors to Syria to continue their probe into the use of chemical weapons.

Press Association

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