Obama notes split over Syria attack, plans speech - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Obama notes split over Syria attack, plans speech

Posted: Updated:
President Obama speaking Friday at the G20 Summit in Russia. President Obama speaking Friday at the G20 Summit in Russia.

By JOSH LEDERMAN
Associated Press

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) -- President Barack Obama acknowledged deep divisions at home and abroad on Friday over his call for military action in Syria -- and conceded the possibility he'll fail to sway the American public. He refused to say whether he would act without passage of congressional authorization for a strike in response to chemical weapons use.

Setting the stage for an intense week of lobbying in Washington over the strike resolution, Obama said he planned to make his case to the American people in an address Tuesday night.

"It's conceivable at the end of the day I don't persuade a majority of the American people that it's the right thing to do," Obama acknowledged. "And then each member of Congress is going to have to decide."

Obama, speaking at the end of a two-day Group of 20 economic summit, earlier held a surprise meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a chief opponent of U.S. military action. Both Obama and Putin said that while they still disagreed, the meeting was constructive.

Obama, in his post-summit news conference, seemed to be feeling the burden of the challenge he faces in persuading the American public, the international community and Congress to back military action. But he expressed confidence the American people and lawmakers, weary after long-running wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, would listen.

"I trust my constituents want me to offer my best judgment. That's why they elected me. That's why they re-elected me," he said.

He said he couldn't honestly claim there was an imminent threat to the United States from the chemical weapons use in Syria. But he argued action was essential to uphold prohibitions against the use of weapons of mass destruction.

Ten members of the Group of 20 joined the United States in a joint statement accusing the Syrian government of carrying out a chemical weapons attack on civilians last month and calling for a strong international response against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The statement stopped short of explicitly calling for military action against Syria.

The countries signing the statement with the U.S. were Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

Seeking to rally support back in Washington, the administration planned another classified briefing for all lawmakers next Monday night after Congress returns, and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough planned to attend the closed-door Democratic caucus meeting Tuesday morning, according to a congressional aide.

Although surveys showed a significant number of House Republicans and Democrats opposed to military action or leaning against it, officials in the leadership insisted it was premature to say the resolution could not be approved. At this stage, just a third of the House and Senate have participated in classified briefings and Obama is still reaching out to lawmakers.

Still, final passage rests on significant votes from House Republicans and Democrats, and the administration is struggling to reach those numbers.

Obama said he and other leaders at the summit had had a "full airing of views on the issue" during a three-hour dinner Thursday night. He said many foreign nations would be issuing statements on their positions, but he didn't say whether any specifically had joined France in supporting his move toward U.S. military strikes.

He said the leaders were unanimous in believing that chemical weapons were used in Syria and that international norms against that use must be maintained. He said division comes over how to proceed through the United Nations.

Obama also held an unannounced meeting with Russian President Putin, a staunch ally of Assad.

Putin called the discussion "substantial and constructive." Likewise, Obama said it was a "candid and constructive conversation." The U.S. president said they agreed the underlying conflict in Syria could only be resolved through a political transition. Obama also said he thinks it is important that he and Putin work together to urge all sides in the conflict to try to resolve it.

Putin said they didn't discuss the case of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, who is living in Russia on temporary asylum from prosecution in the United States for leaking classified programs. Instead, he said the entire meeting focused on airing their positions on Syria.

"I don't agree with his arguments and he doesn't agree with mine, but we are listening to them and trying to analyze them," Putin said.

Russia on Friday warned the United States and its allies against striking any chemical weapon storage facilities in Syria. The Russian foreign ministry said such targeting could release toxic chemicals and give militants or terrorist access to chemical weapons.

"This is a step toward proliferation of chemical weapons not only across the Syrian territory but beyond its borders," the Russian statement said.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin said Russia was boosting its naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea, moving in warships into the area and stoking fears about a larger international conflict if the United States orders airstrikes.

Moreover, China remained a firm no. The European Union is skeptical about whether any military action can be effective. Even Pope Francis weighed in, urging leaders gathered here to abandon what he called a "futile mission."

Still, Obama was undeterred. He and French President Francois Hollande, the U.S.'s strongest ally on Syria and a vocal advocate for a military intervention, met on the sidelines of the summit about attracting European support for action. "It's clear that there are many countries that agree with us that international norms must be upheld," Obama said.

Said Hollande: "To do nothing would mean impunity."

British Prime Minister David Cameron said his country will not be part of military action because of opposition from Parliament. He said the international opinion is also divided.

"This summit was never going to reach agreement," he said, but added the case made by Obama and other countries "was extremely powerful."

Illustrating the risks associated with a strike, the State Department ordered nonessential U.S. diplomats to leave Lebanon, a step under consideration since last week when Obama said he was contemplating military action against the Syrian government.

Before his scheduled return to Washington late Friday, Obama also planned to meet with Russian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists, calling attention to another area of disagreement with Moscow.

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • Federal sting ends in gunfire in Highland Park

    Federal sting ends in gunfire in Highland Park

    Saturday, August 2 2014 12:03 AM EDT2014-08-02 04:03:37 GMT
    In what started as a traffic stop, resulted in a shootout between federal agents and a pair of men known to have illegal assault rifles in Highland Park.Police say a task force of ATF and FBI agents who had previously set up a meet with two men, known to have AK-47s and AR-15s in their Chevrolet Cavalier, began to move in. The traffic stop was made near Oakland and Victor about 7:30 p.m. Friday. The car rammed the federal agents vehicle and the driver opened fire with a handgun. The agents re...
    In what started as a traffic stop, resulted in a shootout between federal agents and a pair of men known to have illegal assault rifles in Highland Park.Police say a task force of ATF and FBI agents who had previously set up a meet with two men, known to have AK-47s and AR-15s in their Chevrolet Cavalier, began to move in. The traffic stop was made near Oakland and Victor about 7:30 p.m. Friday. The car rammed the federal agents vehicle and the driver opened fire with a handgun. The agents re...
  • Officer hit by drunk driver on Detroit's east side

    Officer hit by drunk driver on Detroit's east side

    Friday, August 1 2014 11:15 PM EDT2014-08-02 03:15:06 GMT
    An officer was hit by a driver believed to be drunk Friday at 8 mile and Alcoy on Detroit's east side.Police say officers were investigating at the scene of a traffic accident when the driver ran through the barricade and hit the woman.She was transported to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries and the drunk driver was arrested. Police had been conducting an investigation of the original accident in which one of the drivers died. Eight mile is closed in east bound lane by Alcoy.
    An officer was hit by a driver believed to be drunk Friday at 8 mile and Alcoy on Detroit's east side.Police say officers were investigating at the scene of a traffic accident when the driver ran through the barricade and hit the woman.She was transported to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries and the drunk driver was arrested. Police had been conducting an investigation of the original accident in which one of the drivers died. Eight mile is closed in east bound lane by Alcoy.
  • Man arrested after trying to wrestle gun from officer in Detroit

    Man arrested after trying to wrestle gun from officer in Detroit

    Friday, August 1 2014 9:32 PM EDT2014-08-02 01:32:44 GMT
    A man was arrested after he went for an officer's gun trying to wrestle it away from Detroit Police, causing the weapon to fire.SkyFOX was over the scene on Manning Street in Detroit, where the incident occurred Friday,The bullet didn't hit anyone and police took a 27-year-old man from Roseville into custody.Police say the home was a known drug den, and when officers drove by the property -- four people ran from the home.The officer and suspect were treated at a hospital for non life threaten...
    A man was arrested after he went for an officer's gun trying to wrestle it away from Detroit Police, causing the weapon to fire.SkyFOX was over the scene on Manning Street in Detroit, where the incident occurred Friday,The bullet didn't hit anyone and police took a 27-year-old man from Roseville into custody.Police say the home was a known drug den, and when officers drove by the property -- four people ran from the home.The officer and suspect were treated at a hospital for non life threaten...
Powered by WorldNow

WTXF-TV
330 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106-2796

Phone: (215) 925-2929
Fax: (215) 982-5494

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices