WHAT'S NEXT WITH SYRIA CONFLICT? President Obama Addresses Nation Tonight As Developments Unfold

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Obama looks to diplomacy, with military action as a fallback option
WASHINGTON (AP) - It's now a two-track strategy on Syria for President Barack Obama and his allies in Congress.
With Syria saying it supports a proposal that it give up control of its chemical weapons stockpiles, Obama is joining a call for the U.N. Security Council to begin talks aimed at securing those weapons.
But at the same time, he's continuing to push the fallback idea of U.S. airstrikes against Bashar Assad's regime, in case that effort fails.
A bipartisan group of senators is seizing on that new strategy -- putting together a reworked congressional resolution calling for a U.N team to remove the chemical weapons by a set deadline. It authorizes military action if that doesn't happen.
Obama is discussing the diplomatic and military options today with Democratic and Republican senators who are growing increasingly wary of U.S. military intervention. And he's planning to address the American people from the White House tonight.
This morning, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell became the first congressional leader to come out against authorizing military strikes. He said there are "too many unanswered questions about our long-term strategy in Syria."
Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry told lawmakers that the plan for Syria to turn over its chemical weapons must not be used as a delaying tactic. And he said it has to be verifiable.

Obama backs UN discussion of Syria arms proposal

WASHINGTON (AP) - A White House official says President Barack Obama has agreed to discussions at the United Nations Security Council on a proposal from Russia to secure Syria's chemical weapons stockpiles.
The official says Obama discussed the proposal Tuesday with French President Francois Hollande (frahn-SWAH' oh-LAWND') and British Prime Minister David Cameron. France's foreign minister says France will float a resolution in the U.N. Security Council aimed at forcing Syria to make public its chemical weapons program, place it under international control and dismantle it.
Obama has said the proposal marks a potential breakthrough that could halt plans for a U.S. military strike, though he said the details remain unclear.
The official requested anonymity because the officials was not authorized to discuss the private conversations by name.

Kerry: US still waiting for Russia plan on Syria

WASHINGTON (AP) - Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.S. is still awaiting a proposal from the Russians about how Syria could agree to give up its chemical weapons, but that the U.S. will not wait for long.
Kerry told a House panel on Tuesday that the Obama administration will give any proposal a hard look, but that it must not be used as a delaying tactic and that it has to be verifiable, real and include tangible conditions for Syrian President Bashar Assad to forfeit his chemical weapons.
Kerry is testifying in the House to persuade members of the Armed Services Committee to back Obama's request for military action against Syria - a strike that could be avoided if Syria gives up its weapons.

Syria says it accepts Russian weapons proposal
MOSCOW (AP) - Syria says it has accepted Russia's proposal to place its chemical weapons under international control for subsequent dismantling.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said Tuesday after meeting with Russian parliament speaker that his government quickly agreed to the Russian initiative to "derail the U.S. aggression."
Meanwhile, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia is now working with Syria to prepare a detailed plan of action, which will be presented shortly.
Lavrov said that Russia will then be ready to finalize the plan together with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
President Barack Obama said Monday the Russian proposal could be "potentially a significant breakthrough," but he remained skeptical that Syria would follow through.

Syria opposition dismisses Russian proposal, calls for strikes
BEIRUT (AP) - Syria's main opposition bloc is urging the West to strike Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime despite Russia's initiative to have Damascus surrender its chemical weapons to international control.
The Syrian National Coalition dismisses the proposal as a maneuver to escape punishment. It has been cheering for international military action, hoping a blow would shift the bloody war of attrition between rebels and Assad's forces, which has left more than 100,000 dead in more than 2 ½ years of fighting.
In a statement Tuesday, the coalition said Moscow's proposal "aims to procrastinate and will lead to more death and destruction of the Syrian people."
The group says, "A violation of international law should lead to an international retaliation that is proportional in size." It adds that handing over the weapons isn't enough to offset crimes against humanity.
Arab League supports Russia's Syria initiative
CAIRO (AP) - The Arab League chief has expressed support for Russia's proposal to put Syria's chemical weapons under international control.
Nabil Elaraby told reporters on Tuesday that the Arab League has been always in favor of a "political resolution." He added, "thank God."
The Arab league has blamed the Syrian government for the alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus that killed hundreds of people and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. However it didn't support military action without U.N. consent.


WASHINGTON (AP) - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says he will oppose President Barack Obama's resolution authorizing a military strike against Syria.
The Kentucky Republican says no vital national security risk is at play and there are too many unanswered questions about the United States' long-term strategy in Syria.
McConnell says the proposal is, quote, "utterly detached from a wider strategy to end the civil war" in Syria.
McConnell becomes the first congressional leader to oppose Obama on his plans to punish Syria's President Bashar Assad. The White House accuses Assad of using chemical weapons against his own people.
Congressional support for a strike has been weakening even as lawmakers scramble to respond to a Russian proposal to secure Assad's chemical arsenal.

NEW: AP Sources: Senators craft Syria alternative
WASHINGTON (AP) - Senior congressional aides say a bipartisan group of senators is working on an alternative measure to a resolution authorizing U.S. military force against Syria.
The group met late Monday on a plan that would call on the U.N. Security Council stating that Syria has chemical weapons and requiring a U.N. team to remove the weapons within a specific time period, possibly 60 days. If this cannot be done, then President Barack Obama has the authority to launch military strikes.
The senators working on the proposal are Republicans John McCain, Kelly Ayotte, Lindsey Graham and Saxby Chambliss along with Democrats Chris Coons, Bob Casey, Chuck Schumer, Carl Levin and Bob Menendez.
The aides spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss the plan.
McCain: Russian proposal needs time to 'play out'
WASHINGTON (AP) - Sen. John McCain says the United States has no choice but to allow time for a new diplomatic offensive on Syria to "play out," even though he's skeptical that the plan is genuine.
McCain was asked in a nationally broadcast CBS This Morning interview to comment on a proposal by Russia, embraced by Syria, for President Bashar Assad to relinquish his chemical weapons stockpile.
Assad has not publicly acknowledged having such weapons, and President Barack Obama is seeking congressional authorization to attack Syria in reprisal for Assad's alleged chemical weapons attack in a Damascus suburb on Aug. 21.
McCain, an Arizona Republican and harsh Obama critic, said Tuesday there is "incoherence" in the administration's statements. But he also said that "not to pursue" the diplomatic option "would be a mistake."
Syria joins Russia in urging UN nuke agency to assess hazards of a strike on its reactor
VIENNA (AP) - Syria has joined Russia in asking the U.N. atomic agency to assess the hazards posed by a possible military strike on its nuclear facilities.
The request today to the International Atomic Energy Agency follow a similar request by Moscow in a meeting Monday of the IAEA's 35-nation board.
Russia is Syria's strongest ally in efforts to prevent U.S. air strikes on Syrian government targets in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds of Syrians.
Syria's envoy to the IAEA expressed "deep concern" about the nuclear risks of an attack. He told reporters Syria feels the agency has the authority to do an assessment.
The U.S., however, says such a report is outside the IAEA's mandate.
IAEA chief Yukiya Amano says he needs time to consider the request.

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