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Hatch, Stewart talking Syria at the White House

Published September 12, 2013 5:29 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Washington • The White House is maintaining its aggressive outreach to lawmakers skeptical of its plan to bomb Syria if international negotiations fail.

Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Chris Stewart, both R-Utah, attended separate briefings led by White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on Thursday.

McDonough has emerged as a key emissary on the issue, holding regular briefings, and appearing on political news shows to explain the administration's view.

President Barack Obama believes the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad is behind a chemical weapons attack on Aug. 21 that killed more than 1,000 people, including hundreds of children.

He feels the attack requires a strong international response and at first, he favored a limited military strike — an idea that appears highly unpopular in Congress.

Obama has turned to new diplomatic negotiations with Russia, a key Syrian ally, in the hope of getting Syria to turn over its chemical weapon stockpiles to the international community for eventual disposal.

Hatch, Stewart and Utah's other four members of Congress have disagreed with Obama's plan for a limited military strike, and have pinned hopes on a diplomatic breakthrough.

Tuesday's briefings didn't convince Hatch or Stewart to change their positions, but are an indication that the White House isn't ready to give up on the option of using force to limit the Syrian president's capability to use poison gas in his nation's ongoing civil war.