Obama administration presses for military action against Syria
PARIS (AP) -- Secretary of State John Kerry says "this is not the time to be silent spectators to slaughter."
Speaking in Paris about last month's chemical weapons attack in Syria, Kerry said the world cannot allow the "unfettered use" of some of the most "heinous weapons on earth."
Earlier Saturday, Kerry was in Lithuania meeting with European Union foreign ministers, who agreed that the Aug. 21 chemical attack outside Damascus appears to have been the work of Syria's regime. The foreign ministers called for a "clear and strong response" but said any military attack against Syria should wait until U.N. inspectors report on their investigation.
A senior State Department official says Kerry has made it clear that the U.S. hasn't made any decision to delay.
President Barack Obama discussed Syria in his weekly radio and Internet address. He said the United States "cannot turn a blind eye" to the grim images of children allegedly killed in the chemical the attack.
Obama will address the nation on the subject Tuesday evening. The next day, a key first vote is expected in the Senate over a resolution authorizing the "limited and specified use" of U.S. armed forces.
BERLIN (AP) -- Germany has joined the United States and ten other members of the Group of 20 biggest economies in blaming the Syrian government for a chemical attack against civilians last month.
Germany had been the only European member of the G-20 not to co-sign a joint statement issued Friday at the end of the G20 meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The statement calls for a strong international response against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad but stops short of explicitly calling for military action against the Syrian government.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Saturday in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius that Germany wanted to wait for European Union foreign ministers to agree on a common position before backing the statement.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- As President Barack Obama prepares for a national address on Syria this Tuesday night, a U.S. official has released a DVD compilation of videos showing victims of the Aug. 21 attack near Damascus.
The graphic images show children and adults in several different locations, on stretchers or on the floor, gasping for air and choking. Some of the victims are frozen still while others make jerky motions with their arms or legs, as medical workers try to tend to dozens of people all at once.
The same compilation of videos was reportedly shown to senators during a classified briefing on Thursday, and some have been posted on YouTube by supporters of the Syrian rebels .
The U.S. official, who was granted anonymity, says the videos were also referenced in the government's four-page intelligence
assessment, released last week, that blamed the Syrian government for the chemical attack.
BERLIN (AP) -- A German newspaper is reporting that a team of United Nations chemical weapons inspectors could submit initial findings from its tests of samples collected in Syria by the end of next week.
The respected weekly Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung says the interim report to U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon will likely contain details on the gas, ammunition and delivery systems used in the attack that killed hundreds of people in a suburb of Damscus on Aug. 21.
The newspaper said Saturday its report was based on information provided by two unnamed persons close to the inspection team.
The paper reported that the inspectors collected almost 100 samples from the site of the attack, including pieces of rubble and ammunitions remains, as well as hair, tissue, blood and urine samples from humans and animals.
VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) -- The European Union agreed on Saturday that the Aug. 21 chemical attack outside Damascus appears to have been the work of Syria's regime, but that any potential military attack against it should wait for a U.N. inspectors' report.
After meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the EU ministers ended days of division on the issue with a statement saying the available intelligence "seems to indicate strong evidence that the Syrian regime is responsible for these attacks."
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius, who hosted the meeting, put it more bluntly in targeting Syrian President Bashar Assad, speaking of "more and more evidence that the Assad regime is behind all these crimes. We can't just ignore this."
The EU nations, most of which have been skeptical of a quick retaliatory strike against the regime, underscored "the need to move forward with addressing the Syrian crisis through the U.N. process." The ministers said they hope a "preliminary report of this first (U.N.) investigation can be released as soon as possible."
Kerry welcomed the stand of the 28 EU nations, calling it "a strong statement" backing all "the efforts to hold the Assad regime accountable for what it has done."
The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung reported Saturday that the U.N. chemical weapons inspectors could submit initial findings from their tests of samples collected in Syria by the end of next week. The respected weekly said the interim report to U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon will likely contain details on the gas, ammunition and delivery systems used in the attack that killed hundreds of people in a suburb of Damascus.
Instrumental in bringing the EU together around a common viewpoint was the decision on Friday by French President Francois Hollande to wait for the U.N. report before deciding to intervene militarily, even though France had said the report would only show a chemical attack had taken place, not apportion blame.
The EU ministers welcomed "President Hollande's statement to wait for this report before any further action." They also stressed that perpetrators for such chemical attacks should face possible prosecution by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Germany joined in blaming the attack on the Syrian government. It had been the only European member of the Group of 20 not to co-sign a joint statement issued Friday at the end of the group's meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, blaming the regime.
That G-20 statement calls for a strong international response against Assad's regime but stops short of explicitly calling for military action against the Syrian government. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Saturday in Vilnius that his country wanted to wait for EU foreign ministers to agree on a common position before backing the statement.
Kerry said Saturday he would share his counterparts' concern with Obama administration officials. A senior U.S. State Department official who attended Kerry's meeting with the ministers said Kerry made clear that the U.S. has not made any decision to wait. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to disclose details about the private meeting.
The U.S. blames Assad's regime for the chemical attack and, citing intelligence reports, says sarin gas was used. The U.S. says 1,429 people died, including 426 children.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which collects information from a network of anti-regime activists, says it has only been able to confirm 502 dead.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama's plea to Congress for the go-ahead for military strikes against Syria is forcing ambitious Republicans weighing a White House bid to choose sides as the party is bitterly divided over the U.S. role in foreign policy.
Kentucky's Sen. Rand Paul remains unequivocal in his opposition, tangling with Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday over constitutional powers and the possibility that a U.S. attack will further destabilize the Mideast.
While fiercely opposed to Syrian President Bashar Assad, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida expressed frustration with the Obama administration's handling of Syria and skepticism about U.S. involvement.
Potential Republican presidential candidates hardly want to appear weak on national security. But they are concerned that the U.S. could be drawn into a protracted conflict.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Anti-war protesters are turning out to voice their opposition to a U.S. military strike in Syria.
At least 150 protesters picketed the sidewalk in front of the White House on Saturday and marched to Capitol Hill, chanting slogans such as "They say more war; we say no war" and carrying signs that said a war on Syria would be "Built on a Lie."
The demonstrators said their picket line is one that Congress shouldn't cross as it prepares to vote on the issue.
Medea Benjamin, a founder of the anti-war group Code Pink, said "There is a grass-roots uprising against the Democrats and the Republicans."
Many lawmakers in both parties oppose Obama's request for Congress to authorize using military force against Syria for a deadly Aug. 21 chemical gas attack the Obama administration blames on President Bashar Assad.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared the authorization measure earlier this week and the first votes by the full Senate could come Wednesday.
Concerns over military action spawned other protests across the country, including one in New York City's Times Square and a prayer vigil in Boston.
VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Francis says "violence and war are never the way to peace!"
He spoke to tens of thousands of people who answered his call for a grassroots cry for peace and filled St. Peter's Square late Saturday for a four-hour Syria peace vigil.
The Vatican estimated about 100,000 took part in the Rome event, making it one of the largest rallies in the West against proposed U.S.-led military action against the Syrian regime following the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus.
Francis spent most of the vigil in silent prayer, but during his speech he denounced those who are "captivated by the idols of dominion and power" and destroy God's creation through war.
The pontiff said "May the noise of weapons cease!" adding that "War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity."
In Damascus, a few dozen Syrian Christians attended a church service, joining Francis' invitation for a global participation in the day of fasting and prayer and to oppose outside military intervention in the conflict.