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Obama to address a skeptical nation Tuesday on Syria

ElectionsBarack ObamaNational GovernmentRussiaBiological and Chemical WeaponsG20

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – President Obama said Friday he will take his case for military strikes in Syria to the nation in an address next week as he argued against letting “paralysis” at the United Nations stand in the way of an international response to the reported use of chemical weapons.

Speaking at a news conference at the end of a two-day trip to Russia, Obama said he will address the American public from the White House on Tuesday in an attempt to win support for his plan.

“In the coming days, I'll continue to consult with my fellow leaders around the world, and I will continue to consult with Congress,” he said. “And I will make the best case that I can to the American people, as well as to the international community, for taking necessary and appropriate action.”

Obama said that the world doesn’t need “another statement of condemnation,” suggesting he will not leave the question of military action up to a vote of the U.N. Security Council, which has so far been unable to take action against Syria because its allies Russia and China have vetoes.

“Given the Security Council paralysis on this issue, if we are serious about upholding a ban on chemical weapons use, then an international response is required,” he said. “If we end up using the U.N. Security Council not as a means of enforcing international norms and international law, but rather as a barrier to acting, then I think people rightly are going to be pretty skeptical about the system.”

Obama refused to say whether he would proceed without a vote of authorization from Congress, saying only that he would continue making his case to lawmakers and to the public.

Making sure the American people understand his reasoning is important “before I take action,” Obama said.

Obama has been under pressure from Democratic lawmakers to make a forceful public case for the strike. Secretary of State John F. Kerry suggested earlier this week that Obama would make such a speech, although the White House said the president was not yet decided.

Obama was in Russia for a meeting of leaders of the Group of 20 major economies.

Immediately after he spoke, leaders of 10 nations at the G-20 summit issued a joint statement with the U.S. supporting "efforts undertaken by the United States and other countries to reinforce the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons."

The Obama administration says the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad killed at least 1,429 people, including at least 426 children, in an Aug. 21 chemical attack on the suburbs of Damascus -- charges denied by the Syrian authorities. Britain and France have cited lower confirmed death tolls.

"The evidence clearly points to the Syrian government being responsible for the attack, which is part of a pattern of chemical weapons use by the regime," said the statement from "leaders and representatives" of Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Turkey, as well as the United States.

"We call for a strong international response to this grave violation of the world’s rules and conscience that will send a clear message that this kind of atrocity can never be repeated."

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Twitter: @khennessey

kathleen.hennessey@latimes.com

Twitter: @cparsons

christi.parsons@latimes.com

Staff writers Hennessey reported from St. Petersburg, and Parsons reported from Washington.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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