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A White House draft resolution asks Congress to authorize force to "deter, disrupt, prevent and degrade" the Assad regime’s ability to use chemical weapons. It doesn’t lay out a timeline for action.
Kerry also said the United States has received hair and blood samples from first responders indicating that Syria’s government forces used sarin in the Aug. 21 attacks. It was the first piece of specific physiological evidence cited by the administration.
Previously, the U.S. only said regime troops fired rockets carrying an unnamed nerve agent at the Damascus suburbs, killing at least 1,429 civilians, including more than 400 children.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based group that collects information from a network of anti-regime activists in Syria, has said it has only been able to confirm the names of 502 dead. It has challenged the U.S. to release the information that led to the higher toll.
Obama has said that in making his final decision, he will not wait for findings by U.N. chemical weapons experts who collected biological and soil samples in the stricken areas near Damascus last week.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon asked the head of the team on Sunday to expedite the testing of the samples and report back to him as soon as possible, U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said. The samples will be sent Monday to laboratories around Europe, he said, adding that he could not say when the results will be in. Ban has said no action should be taken before the U.N. team has presented its findings. However, U.S. officials have argued that there is no doubt chemical weapons were used, and that it’s not part of the U.N. inspectors’ mandate to determine who fired them.
In Cairo, at an emergency sesson of the 22-member Arab League, the Saudi Arabian foreign minister, Saud al-Faisal, prodded member states to back international measures against the Syrian regime to "deter this aggression by all possible means."
If the world does nothing, the Syrian regime will be encouraged to "go on with its crimes," he said.
Syrian Opposition Coalition President Ahmed Assi al-Jarba urged the Arab countries to support an "international operation to stop the killing and destruction machine" of the Assad regime. The opposition coalition has represented Syria at Arab League meetings since the Assad government’s membership was suspended earlier this year.
However, key members such as Egypt and Iraq opposed sanctioning any military action against Syria, which resulted in the final statement being watered down.
In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country is ready for "any possible scenario," a reference to fears of Syrian reprisals against Israel in the event of a U.S. strike on the Assad regime.
Netanyahu did not address Obama’s latest decisions, but media commentators and hard-line politicians said the U.S. president appeared indecisive.
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