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US: More countries ready to back Syria action
September 8, 2013, 1:07 pm

The US Secretary of State, John Kerry, has said that many countries were prepared to take part in US-led military strikes against the Syrian regime for an alleged chemical attack near a Damascus suburb last month.

"There are a number of countries, in the double digits, who are prepared to take military action," Kerry said at a press conference on Saturday with his French counterpart Laurent Fabius.

"We have more countries prepared to take military action than we actually could use in the kind of military action being contemplated."

Kerry also said he was encouraged by a European Union statement calling for a "strong" response to the alleged Syrian chemical attack.

Outlining his case in Paris in French and English, Kerry compared the situation to the 1938 Munich Agreement, which ceded control of part of Czechoslovakia to Nazi Germany.

"This is our Munich moment, this is our chance to join together and pursue accountability over appeasement...," he said.

"This is not the time to be silent spectators to slaughter."

The French Foreign Minister told reporters there was "wide and growing support" for action on Syria.

"Right now, seven of the eight countries in the G8 share our opinion on a strong reaction and 12 countries of the G20 also share this opinion," he said.

The European Union has urged waiting for a report from UN weapons inspectors before any US-led military response.

In Riyadh, the Gulf Cooperation Council urged the international community to intervene immediately to "rescue" the Syrian people from "oppression".

The carefully worded message from foreign ministers of 28 EU governments stopped short of endorsing possible US and French military action against Syria ahead of the report, which France's president said could come by the end of the week.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama urged Americans on Saturday to back him in launching an attack on Syria, as diplomatic pressure grew on the US to wait for the UN report.

Fresh from a European trip in which he failed to forge a consensus among G20 leaders, Obama plunged into a campaign on radio and television to try to convince a sceptical US public and Congress of the need for a military strike.

In his weekly address, President Obama warned of the dangers of turning "a blind eye" to chemical attacks.

"I call on members of Congress, from both parties, to come together and stand up for the kind of world we want to live in," Obama said.

Obama has emphasised he favoured limited strikes on Syria to deter future chemical weapons attacks - not another costly and protracted conflict.

"This would not be another Iraq or Afghanistan," Obama declared in his weekly radio address, previewing arguments he will make in a nationally televised address on Tuesday.

The Obama administration says more 1,400 people were killed by the poison gas, hundreds of them children. But the Syrian government has denied it used chemical weapons on its people.

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has backed the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and has insisted that UN should be involved in resolution of the conflict.

Russia, backed by China, has used veto power three times to block UN resolutions condemning Assad’s government.

Earlier on Saturday Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, said that "a clear and strong response" must be delivered to Syrian regime, but urged those advocating military strikes to wait for a UN inspectors' report.

Senate vote

Speaking in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, on Saturday, Ashton said that the EU agreed that available information showed strong evidence that the Syrian government was responsible for the alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians on August 21.

Ashton said the August 21 attack was a "blatant violation of international law, a war crime and a crime against humanity" and that the ministers "were unanimous in condemning in the strongest terms this horrific attack".

Kerry, who is on a tour of Europe to make US case of military strikes, said he would share his counterparts' concern with US officials, but later in Paris said that President Obama had not yet made a decision on whether or not to wait for the inspectors report before ordering any action.

Al Jazeera's Neave Barker, reporting from Paris, said that Fabius addressed a domestic audience with some of his remarks.

"One of the most interesting points made by the French Foreign Minister was to defend against accusations that France has isolated itself on global stage. What he failed to mention of course, was that no other states than France and the US have gone so far as to say that they would militarily intervene," he said.

President Barack Obama has asked the US Congress to approve the use of force in Syria, and on Saturday announced that he will be doing a series of television interviews ahead of a nationwide televised address on Tuesday.

A final vote in the US Senate is expected at the end of the coming week. A US House of Representatives vote is likely the week of September 16.

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