ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — President Barack Obama pressed fellow world leaders on Thursday to support a U.S.-led strike on Syria, but he ran into opposition from Russia, China and even the European Union — which condemned the deadly recent chemical weapons attack in Bashar Assad's country but declared it too soon for military action.
"The use of chemical weapons in Syria is not only a tragedy but also a violation of international law that must be addressed," Obama insisted during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the Group of 20 economic summit, where he mostly made his case behind the scenes.
China's G-20 delegation spokesman, Qin Gang, was among those who countered, saying: "War isn't the fundamental way to solve problems in Syria."
Obama's public and private diplomatic wrangling partly was intended to ratchet up pressure on lawmakers back in Washington as they debate authorizing military action. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed a use-of-force resolution this week, but the measure's prospects in the full Senate and the House of Representatives are uncertain.
The prospect of military action against Syria overshadowed the global growth agenda at the two-day G-20 summit, which opened Thursday in this historic Russian city on the Baltic Sea. Leaders did, however, hold a lengthy discussion about the crisis during a four-hour dinner hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, one of Syria's strongest backers.
The dinner at St. Petersburg's Peterhof Palace stretched into the early hours of Friday and ended with an elaborate fireworks and laser light display.
White House advisers said Obama was seeking "political and diplomatic" support from his international counterparts, not necessarily military cooperation. And Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, said the type of action the U.S. is contemplating "does not come with significant requirements of international participation."