President Barack Obama on Saturday backed away from an imminent military strike against Syria to seek the approval of the U.S. Congress, in a decision that likely delays U.S. action for at least 10 days.
The announcement came after the United Nations experts investigating last week's alleged chemical weapons strike outside Damascus left Syria. The inspectors' departure appeared to signal a looming confrontation between the U.S. and President Bashar Assad's regime, although the UN vehemently denied that it was somehow stepping aside to allow U.S. intervention.
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03:10 A.M. The White House has sent Congress a draft resolution authorizing the use of American military force in Syria, with a narrow focus on interdicting chemical weapons - or their use - by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Politico reported..
The draft resolution, crafted by White House officials, does not set any deadline for U.S. action, but it is clearly written to assuage congressional concerns over open-ended American involvement in the two-year-old Syria civil war.
The text of the resolution can be read here.
10:43 P.M. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to Syrian opposition leader Ahmed Assi al-Jarba to underscore the determination of the United States to hold the Syrian government accountable for using chemical weapons, a U.S. official said. Kerry also spoke with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Japan about Syria. (Reuters)
10:25 P.M. Obama will discuss U.S. case for action on Syria with world leaders at G20 summit in Russia next week, U.S. officials say. (Reuters)
10:20 P.M. White House believes Congress will vote in favor of U.S. strike, senior officials say (Reuters)
9:27 P.M. The U.S. House of Representatives confirms it will consider a measure on military action against Syria the week of Sept. 9, House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders said in a statement. "This provides the president time to make his case to Congress and the American people," the statement says. (Reuters)
9:26 P.M. U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell says President Obama had advised him that he would seek authorization for the use of force from Congress before any combat actions against Syria. "The President's role as commander-in-chief is always strengthened when he enjoys the expressed support of the Congress," he said in a statement. (Reuters)
8:55 P.M. "The United States can't turn a blind eye to what happened in Damascus," Obama says. He calls on all members of congress to put aside partisan differences and vote for military action in Syria based on U.S. national security.
The president says that he knows the American people are weary of war and that he is not contemplating putting U.S. troops on the ground in Syria.
He adds that while he respects the views of those who called for caution in Syria, he believes U.S. must acknowledge the costs of doing nothing there. (Haaretz)
8:53 P.M. Obama announces the U.S. is prepared to take military action against the Syrian regime, but will seek authorization from Congress to do so.
The president says he spoke to all four top Congressional leaders, and they will schedule a debate and vote once Congress comes back to session. He stresses that he has the authority to carry out military action without Congress, but believes in the significance of the debate.
The session is scheduled to begin on September 9. (Haaretz)
8:50 P.M. Obama says the Syrian regime's chemical weapons attack was an "assault on human dignity," has jeopardized U.S. national security and has put the American allies at risk, including Israel, Jordan and Turkey. (Haaretz)
8:40 P.M. Obama's speech is delayed due to a last minute telephone call, news outlets report. (Haaretz)
8:30 P.M. In Saturday's address, Obama is not expected to announce an imminent military strike on Syria, sources tell CNN. (Haaretz)
8:00 P.M. UN to share findings of its chemical weapons team with members after evidence analyzed in labs. (AP)
7:58 P.M. The United Nations vehemently rejects suggestions that the world body was somehow stepping aside to allow U.S. air strikes on Syria, saying its humanitarian work in the conflict-ravaged country would continue.
"I have seen all kinds of reporting suggesting that the departure of the chemical weapons team somehow opens a window for military action of some kind," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters. "Frankly, that's grotesque, and it's also an affront to the more than 1,000 staff, UN staff, who are on the ground in Syria delivering humanitarian aid and who will continue to deliver critical aid." (Reuters)
7:26 P.M. Obama to deliver statement on Syria at White House at 8:15 P.M. (1:15 P.M. EDT) (Reuters)
7:10 P.M. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives will receive a classified White House briefing on Sunday on the situation in Syria, House Speaker John Boehner's office reports. (Reuters)
7:03 P.M. Italian Premier Enrico Letta says his country "understands" why the United States and France are considering military action against Syria's regime, but reiterates his country "cannot participate" without backing from the United Nations. (AP)
6:30 P.M. A plane carrying UN weapons inspectors who had been gathering evidence and samples relating to alleged chemical weapons use in Syria landed at Rotterdam airport in The Netherlands on Saturday, an airport spokesman says. According to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the samples the inspectors brought with them would be distributed between various laboratories for testing. (Reuters)
4:56 P.M. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and other senior U.S. national security officials will hold conference calls on Saturday afternoon to discuss chemical weapons use in Syria with the Senate Democratic Caucus as well as the Senate Republican Conference, a White House official says.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and President Obama's National Security Adviser Susan Rice as well as Admiral James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will also participate, the official said. (Reuters)
1:51 P.M. Opposition fighters across Syria are preparing to launch attacks that exploit anticipated U.S.-led military strikes, but there are no plans to coordinate with Western forces, a Syrian rebel commander Qassim Saadeddine, a former Syrian army colonel and spokesman for the rebels' Supreme Military Council. He said the council had sent a selection of rebel groups a military plan of action to use if strikes took place. "The hope is to take advantage when some areas are weakened by any strikes. We ordered some groups to prepare in each province, to ready their fighters for when the strike happens," he told Reuters, speaking by Skype. "They were sent a military plan that includes preparations to attack some of the targets we expect to be hit in foreign strikes, and some others that we hope to attack at the same time." (Reuters)
1:12 P.M. Russian President Putin says next week's G20 summit in St. Petersburg could be a platform to discuss Syria crisis. (Reuters)
1:10 P.M. Putin: If the United States begins unilateral military operations against Syria it will be "extremely sad," adds that Obama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, should consider potential victims of Military attack against Syria. (Reuters)
1:00 P.M. Putin says that if American accusations that the Syrian government was using chemical weapons this would be "utter nonsense" on its part, adds the U.S. should present evidence at United Nations Security Council. (Reuters)
12:59 P.M. Russia says U.S. threats to use military force against Syria were unacceptable and that Washington would be violating international law if it acted without the approval of the UN Security Council. "Washington statements with threats to use force against Syria are unacceptable," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich says in a statement released late Friday.
"Any unilateral use of force without the authorization of the UN Security Council, no matter how 'limited' it is, will be a clear violation of international law, will undermine prospects for a political and diplomatic resolution of the conflict in Syria and will lead to a new round of confrontation and new casualties." Lukashevich also says that Washington's threats were made "in the absence of any proof" of the Syrian government using chemical weapons. (Reuters)
12:52 P.M. A senior delegation of the Iranian parliament goes to Damascus on Saturday for a five-day visit, the news agency ISNA reports, as a sign of solidarity with the Syrian government. The delegation of three members, led by foreign policy commission chairman Alaeddin Boroujerdi, will meet Syrian President Bashar Assad, the report adds. (DPA)
12:40 P.M. Most French people do not want France to take part in military action on Syria and most do not trust French President Francois Hollande to do so, a poll shows. The BVA poll, released Saturday by Le Parisien-Aujourd'hui en France, showed 64 percent of respondents opposed military action, 58 percent did not trust Hollande to conduct it, and 35 percent feared it could "set the entire region (Middle East) ablaze." (Reuters)
12:34 P.M. Several countries have advised their citizens against travelling to Lebanon as regional tensions grow over a possible U.S. military strike on Syria. Those issuing the advice include Bahrain, Kuwait, Britain and France, while Austria told its citizens to contact its embassy in Lebanon before travelling there. Bahrain and Kuwait also urged its nationals in the country to leave immediately, their state news agencies reported. (Reuters)
12:30 P.M. A senior security source in Lebanon said 14,000 people had left the country on Thursday alone, mostly Europeans.
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