Americans demonstrate against a US-led strike on Syria in front of the White House in Washington yesterday.
WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama yesterday backed away from an imminent military strike against Syria to seek congressional approval, in a decision that likely delays action for at least 10 days.
Obama, in a stern statement from the White House Rose Garden, said he had authorised the use of military force to punish Syria for a chemical weapons attack on August 21 that officials say killed 1,429 people. Military assets to carry out a strike are in place and ready to move on his order, he said.
But in an acknowledgement of protests from US lawmakers and concerns from war-weary Americans, Obama added an important caveat: He wants Congress to approve. “We should have this debate, because the issues are too big for business as usual,” he said. Congress is in recess and not scheduled to return to work until September 9. It is unclear which way any vote would go.
The UN, meanwhile, rejected suggestions that it was stepping aside to allow US air strikes, saying its humanitarian work in the conflict-ravaged nation would continue. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the five permanent Security Council members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the US — that it would take up to two weeks before the chemical inspectors’ final report is ready.
In Cairo, Arab League Deputy Chief Ahmed Ben Helli said Arab foreign ministers will meet today to discuss Syria. The meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, but advanced “in light of rapid developments in the Syria situation and based on the request of several Arab states,” he said. Agencies