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President Obama: On Syria, U.S., world credibility on line

  • U.S. President Barack Obama reacts during a press conference at Rosenbad, the seat of the Swedish government in Stockholm, Sweden, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/ Scanpix Sweden/Jessica Gow)

WASHINGTON — In an impassioned appeal for support both at home and abroad, President Barack Obama said Wednesday the credibility of the international community and Congress is on the line in the debate over how to respond to the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. As Obama made his case overseas, legislators on Capitol Hill debated whether a proposed resolution authorizing military force would shift the momentum after more than two years of Syrian civil war.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee delayed a public meeting and huddled in private for more than three hours after Sen. John McCain, an outspoken advocate of intervention, said he did not support the latest version of the Senate resolution to authorize force. The Arizona Republican said he wants more than cruise missile strikes and other limited action, seeking a stronger response aimed at "reversing the momentum on the battlefield" and hastening the departure of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

On the other side of the debate, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said he was not persuaded to support military action, saying the military has been "decimated" by budget cuts and "we're just not in a position to take on any major confrontation."

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said U.S. involvement could well "make the tragedy worse" in Syria, but he predicted that advocates of military intervention would win in the Senate.

"The only chance of stopping what I consider to be bad policy would be in the House," he said.

Obama, asked in Sweden about his own past comments drawing a "red line" against the use of chemical weapons, said it was a line that had first been clearly drawn by countries around the world and by Congress, in ratifying a treaty that bans the use of chemical weapons.

"That wasn't something I just kind of made up," he said. "I didn't pluck it out of thin air. There's a reason for it."

Obama said that if the world fails to act, it will send a message that despots and authoritarian regimes "can continue to act with impunity."

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