U.S. building coalition for Syria strikes, Kerry says

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that an international coalition set to take action against the Syrian regime is growing, adding that Arab countries are being approached to participate.

“We are building support with ... other countries, among them the Arab League,” Kerry said, as the U.S. administration tries to sell its plan for military action to Congress.

The move against the government of President Bashar al-Assad was triggered by a suspected chemical weapons attack on a suburb of the Syrian capital last month, which Washington says has killed at least 1,400 people.

“Specific countries that have talked in terms of acting” include Turkey and France, as well as some Arab states, Kerry said in a statement carried by AFP.

Kerry said the United States had reached out to more than 100 countries in efforts to form a coalition that supports military intervention in Syria.

The news comes as a resolution authorizing a military strike on Syria was approved on Wednesday by the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The vote by the panel clears the way for a vote on the resolution in the full Senate that could possibly be next week, Reuters reported.

But many members of Congress are reluctant to authorize action and are worried that the strike could lead to wider military involvement in the Syrian war and escalate regional violence.

If agree to, the resolution would authorize U.S. President Barack Obama to order a limited military operation on Syria that would not exceed 90 days and would not involve American troops on the ground.

Obama has insisted the Syrian regime has crossed a “red line” against the use of chemical weapons and should be punished.

“Thirty-one countries or organizations have stated publicly or privately that the Assad regime is responsible for this attack, and that was before our evidence package was put together,” Kerry said.

“And 34 countries or organizations have indicated that if the allegations prove to be true, they would support some form of action against Syria.”

He even suggested the United States had too many offers of help as he sought, for a second day, to persuade U.S. lawmakers to back Obama’s plan for limited missile strikes against the Syrian regime.

“A number of them have asked to be part of a military operation,” he told a four-hour hearing. “The Turks, a NATO country, have condemned [the attack], pinned it on Assad [and] asked to be part of an operation.”

“The French have volunteered to be part of an operation. There are others who have volunteered. But frankly ... we got more volunteers that we can use for this kind of an operation,” Kerry said.

And a number of Arab League countries had offered to help bear the cost, he said, adding the amount on the table was “quite significant.”

“Some of them have said that if the United States is prepared to go do the whole thing the way we've done it previously in other places, they'll carry that cost. That's how dedicated they are to this.”

(With AFP)

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