Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Obama embraces Russian proposal that Assad puts chemical weapons under supervision
U.S. President Barack Obama said on Monday he saw a possible breakthrough in the crisis with Syria after Russia proposed that its ally Damascus hand over its chemical weapons for destruction, which could avert planned U.S. military strikes.
But Obama, speaking in a series of television interviews, remained skeptical and pushed ahead to persuade a reluctant and divided Congress to back potential U.S. action, saying the threat of force was needed to press Syria to make concessions. However, the Senate postponed a vote about Obama's proposed attack.
In an extraordinary day of diplomacy over the war-wracked Middle Eastern country, Russia seized on an apparently throwaway public remark by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to fashion a new approach that could save face for all sides.
"My preference consistently has been a diplomatic resolution to this problem," Obama told NBC. He said an agreement for Assad to surrender his chemical weapons to international control would not solve the "underlying terrible conflict inside of Syria."
He added: "But if we can accomplish this limited goal without taking military action, that would be my preference."
"It's possible that we can get a breakthrough," Obama told CNN, although there was a risk that it was a further stalling tactic by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has presided over more than two years of civil war.
"We're going to run this to ground," he said. "John Kerry and the rest of my national security team will engage with the Russians and the international community to see, can we arrive at something that is enforceable and serious."