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Syria puts international community`s credibility on line: Obama

Last Updated: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 - 21:30

Washington: US President Barack Obama on Wednesday said the international community`s credibility is on the line and it cannot be silent in the face of "barbarism", even as his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin warned America and its allies against one-sided intervention in Syria.

"I discussed our assessment and (Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt) and I are in an agreement that in the face of such barbarism the international community cannot be silent," Obama said at a joint news conference in Stockholm along with Reinfeldt.

"Failing to respond to this attack would only increase the risk of more attacks and that possibility that other countries would use these weapons, as well," he said.

"My credibility is not on the line. The international community`s credibility is on the line, and America and Congress` credibility is on the line because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important," Obama said.

Responding to a question, he said the red line against the use of chemical weapons was not set by him.

"I didn`t set a red line. The world set a red line. The world set a red line when governments representing 98 per cent of the world`s population said the use of chemical weapons are abhorrent and passed a treaty forbidding their use even when countries are engaged in war," he said.

The US has alleged that the nerve agent sarin was used by the Bashar al-Assad regime on August 21 and that at least 1,429 people were killed, including over 400 children, a charge denied by the Syrian government.

Meanwhile, Putin in an interview with Russia`s state Channel 1 television said any military strikes without UN approval would be "an aggression", as he called for evidence on chemical weapons attack to be presented to the Security Council.

He, however, softened his tone ahead of the G20 summit in Russia, saying he has not ruled out supporting a UN Security Council resolution authorising force, if it was proved "beyond doubt" that the Syrian government used chemical weapons.

Putin said it was "ludicrous" that the Assad regime, an ally of Russia, would use chemical weapons at a time when it was gaining ground against the rebels.

"If there is evidence that chemical weapons were used, and by the regular army... Then this evidence must be presented to the UN Security Council. And it must be convincing," Putin said.

But he added that Russia would "be ready to act in the most decisive and serious way" if there was clear proof of what weapons were used and who used them.

Meanwhile, US Congressional aides have said the Syria war
resolution drafted by members of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee permits up to 60 days of military action against the Assad regime and does not permit any boots on the ground.

However, the text of the draft resolution was not officially released.

The resolution is under consideration after last week Obama stepped back from a strike on Syria to first seek approval from Congress, which returns from recess next week.

Obama exuded confidence that the Congress would authorise his request for a military strike against the Assad regime.

"What happens if Congress doesn`t approve it? I believe that Congress will approve it," Obama said.

"I believe Congress will approve it because I think America recognises that, as difficult as it is to take any military action -- even one as limited as we`re talking about -- even one without boots on the ground -- that`s a sober decision," he said.

The US has also said it not only risks losing its international allies and friends, but also its credibility at the world stage if no military action is taken against the Assad regime for alleged use of chemical weapons.

"If we fail to act, we`re going to have fewer allies. We are going to have fewer people that count on us, certainly in the region," Secretary of State John Kerry told the US Senate.

Kerry said that the credibility of US is at stake.

"It`s fair to say that our interests would be seriously set back in many respects if we are viewed as not capable, or willing to follow through on the things that we say matter to us," the Secretary of State said.

Describing the use of chemical weapons a violation of the world`s "red line", Kerry said that no action by the US would set a dangerous precedent.

Ahead of US Congress` debate on whether to authorise President Obama to take military action against the Assad regime, a key Senate committee is expected to vote on the resolution.

Even as Russia and China oppose unilateral action outside UN`s mandate, France has stood beside the US, calling for strong action against Syria.

France has vowed to "punish" Assad for the alleged attack and this week released an intelligence report that blamed for the assault on the Syrian leader`s regime.

French officials today said a punitive military response would help shift the balance in the two and a half-year-old civil war in Syria.

Syria`s parliament speaker, in a letter to French lawmakers, today urged them not to support military action.

"We ask you not to hasten to commit a heinous, senseless crime, as you must steer the French republic away from the war path and towards diplomacy," Jihad Lahham said in a statement published by the SANA official news agency.


First Published: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 - 20:13
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