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RIGHT NOW: United States Weighing Its Options For Punitive Strike In Syria

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White House: US interests to guide Syria decision
    
WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House says President Barack Obama's decision on a possible military strike against Syria will be guided by America's best interests, suggesting the U.S. may act alone if other nations won't help.
    
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Thursday that Obama believes there are core U.S. interests at stake in Syria. She said countries who violate international norms about chemical weapons must be held accountable.
    
The White House was responding to a failed vote in Britain's Parliament on Thursday to endorse military action against Syria over an alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus last week. That means Britain won't play a direct role in any U.S. attack.
    
The defeat dealt a major blow to Obama's efforts to build an international coalition for a strike against the Syrian government.
    
Congressman: No decision yet on Syria action
    
WASHINGTON (AP) - A Democratic congressman says that President Barack Obama has yet to make any decision on the timing or scope of a possible U.S. military intervention in Syria.
    
Congressman Eliot Engel of New York is the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He says administration officials told lawmakers in a conference call Thursday that they have "no doubt" that Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces used chemical weapons.
    
Engel says top officials provided limited evidence in the call. He says they talked about intercepted discussions and intelligence showing that Syrian forces moved weapons into position ahead of last week's attack.
    
Engel tells The Associated Press that the conversation focused on sharing concerns and the need to prevent the Assad regime from using chemical weapons again.

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LONDON (AP) - British Prime Minister David Cameron has lost a vote endorsing military action against Syria by 13 votes, a stunning defeat for a government which had seemed days away from joining the U.S. in possible attacks to punish Bashar Assad's regime over an alleged chemical weapons attack.
    
Thursday evening's vote was nonbinding, but in practice the rejection of military strikes means Cameron's hands are tied. In a terse statement to Parliament, Cameron said it was clear to him that the British people did not want to see military action.

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WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama has briefed House Speaker John Boehner on Syria in a conversation in which the Republican leader pressed the president to make the case to the nation and Congress for military action.
    
A spokesman for Boehner, Brendan Buck, said in a brief statement on Thursday that the speaker questioned the president about issues he raised in a letter on Wednesday.
    
Among Boehner's concerns are the legal justification for any military strike, the overall policy and precedent and the objective.
    
Buck said only Obama can answer those questions, and it was clear that additional conversations, consultation with Congress and communication with the nation were necessary.

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WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, and intelligence chief James Clapper are among those scheduled to talk to members of Congress later today about Syria.
    
The teleconference, according to congressional aides, will also include Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
    
Some Republicans and Democrats in Congress have said the president hasn't made the case for U.S. military action against Syria, despite the administration's conclusion that Syria's government carried out a large-scale chemical weapons attack against civilians last week.
    
One exception is Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He told CBS that Obama should take some form of action to send a message to Syria's Bashar Assad that "chemical weapons cannot be used against innocent civilians."
    
Some lawmakers insist that Obama can't order military action against Syria without congressional authorization. Menendez, though, says there's an exception under the War Powers act if Obama "believes the national security of the United States is at stake."
    
The administration signaled yesterday that it would act even without the backing of allies or the United Nations.

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DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) - Syrian President Bashar Assad says his country will defend itself against any aggression. That's according to Syria's state news agency.
    
Secretary of State John Kerry has said links between a poison gas attack on Syrian civilians and the Assad government are "undeniable," but U.S. intelligence officials are not so certain.
    
Congressional leaders and national security committees get briefed on the situation today.
    
President Barack Obama is vowing that American retaliation for the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons on its own people would send a "strong signal."
    
But British Prime Minister David Cameron is promising to hold off on any action until a U.N. inspection team can complete its investigation in Syria. The U.N. says the team should wrap up its inspection tomorrow and report its findings Saturday.

UK: Legal case for action in Syria clearly met
    
LONDON (AP) - Britain's government says the legal conditions have been clearly met for taking action against Syria for allegedly launching a chemical attack against its people.
    
Prime Minister David Cameron's office released two documents Thursday meant to bolster the case that chemical weapons were used by Syria. In addition to the legal summary, Downing Street released the Joint Intelligence Committee assessment that concludes it was "highly likely" that the regime was responsible for the chemical weapons attacks in a Damascus suburb on Aug. 21.
    
The committee says there was no credible intelligence to suggest the attack was faked by opposition forces.
    
The documents were released ahead of a parliamentary debate on Syria. The opposition Labour Party has indicated it may not support even a watered down version of a resolution on Syria.

Egypt opposes Syria strikes, would not participate
    
CAIRO (AP) - Egypt's foreign minister says his country strongly opposes military action against Syria and would not support possible punitive strikes by the United States and allies against the Syrian regime over alleged use of chemical weapons.
    
Nabil Fahmy says in a statement Thursday that Egypt condemns chemical weapons use by any side in Syria's civil war and is asking the international community to bring perpetrators to justice after a U.N. team investigating submits findings.
    
The Arab League this week said Syria's regime is responsible for the "heinous crime" involving chemical weapons. It did not state a position on foreign punitive strikes against Syria.
    
Arab League diplomats told The Associated Press the organization will not support military action. They spoke anonymously because of rules preventing them from being named.

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