Aug 31 2013
President Barack Obama has said he has decided that the United States should take military action against Syria in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack.
But he said he will seek congressional authorisation for the use of force. He said the congressional leadership plans to hold a debate and a vote as soon as Congress comes back in September.
Mr Obama said he has the authority to act on his own, but believes it is important for the country to have a debate.
Military action would be in response to a chemical weapons attack the US says Syrian president Bashar Assad's government carried out against civilians. The US says more than 1,400 Syrians were killed in that attack last week.
Mr Obama said: "After careful deliberation I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. This would not be an open-ended intervention. We would not put boots on the ground. Instead our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope. But I'm confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons, deter this kind of behaviour and degrade their capacity to carry it out."
Delaying what had appeared to be an imminent strike with navy ships in the Mediterranean, Mr Obama said he had decided the US should take military action, but also determined "our country will be better off" if Congress renders its own opinion. At the same time, he challenged politicians to consider "what message will we send to a dictator" if he is allowed to kill hundreds of children with chemical weapons without suffering any retaliation.
His announcement came as a team of United Nations chemical weapons experts left Syria after two weeks taking samples from victims of the suspected chemical weapons attack. On Friday the team carried out a fourth and final day of inspections as they sought to determine precisely what happened in the alleged attack on August 21. The samples will be examined in laboratories in Europe.
A top UN spokesman said any notion that the departure of the chemical weapons inspection team from Syria opens a window for a US attack is "grotesque".
Spokesman Martin Nesirky noted that about 1,000 international and UN staff remain in Syria, and the United Nations is just as concerned about their welfare as it is about its team of inspectors. He also said the Syrian population would be vulnerable to harm.
Mr Nesirky spoke at a news conference after UN disarmament chief Angela Kane briefed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the investigation into the alleged chemical weapons strike He said Mr Ban will be briefed further by the head of the UN chemical weapons team on Sunday. The team is in Europe.