U.S. Senate delays Syria vote as Obama mulls diplomatic solution

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A key U.S. vote on authorizing the use of military force in Syria was delayed by the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Monday.

Earlier in the day, the top ally to President Barack Obama in Congress had scheduled the test vote for Wednesday but then backtracked to let the U.S. leader sell his plan on strikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“I want to make sure the president (makes) his case to the Senate and the American people before voting on this matter,” Reid said, according to reports from AFP news agency.

“I don’t think we need to see how fast we can do this. We have to see how well we can do this.”

Obama is to meet with Democratic and Republican senators on Tuesday and gives a televised address to the nation that night.

Russia, which has blocked U.S. and British efforts to gain a United Nations resolution approving international action against Syria, appeared to open a path toward a solution Monday when it suggested a plan for Damascus to hand over its chemical weapons.

Obama said on Monday that the Russian plan was “potentially positive” and pledged to take it seriously.

Obama warned however against any stalling tactics from Syria, and said the fact there was any talk of a plan to forestall U.S. air strikes was only down to his administration’s threats of military action, AFP reported, quoting Obama’s interview on NBC.

“I think you have to take it with a grain of salt initially,” he told “NBC Nightly News” in an interview. “This represents a potentially positive development,” he said, adding that Secretary of State John Kerry would explore with Russia how serious the offer is.

Obama was speaking in one of six television interviews he gave on Monday to make his case that Congress should grant him authority to take action against Syria in response to an alleged Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack that killed more than 1,400 people.

Kerry suggested earlier Monday that Syria could avoid a potential U.S. air attack by putting its chemical weapons under international control.

Syria’s ally Russia quickly took the idea to Syria’s foreign minister, who said Damascus welcomes the proposal.

The State Department later said Kerry had been making a rhetorical argument about the impossibility of Assad turning over chemical weapons, which Assad denies his forces used in the Aug. 21 poison gas attack, according to Reuters.

Obama conceded that he might lose his fight for congressional support of a military strike against Syria, and declined to say what he would do if lawmakers reject his call to back retaliation for a chemical weapons attack last month.

“I think it’s fair to say that I haven’t decided” on a next step if Congress turns its back, the president said in an NBC interview, one of six he granted during the day as part of a furious lobbying campaign aimed at winning support from dubious lawmakers as well as a war-weary public.

(With AFP and Reuters)

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