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Kerry calls for updated war powers to battle 'Islamic State'

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has had its first major hearing about the authorization of military force. Secretary of State John Kerry asked for enhanced war powers at this "pivotal hour."

In a passionate appeal, Kerry made his plea to Congress members on Wednesday for enhanced war powers in the face of the threat posed by the Islamist militants.

"We simply cannot allow this collection of murderers and thugs to achieve its ambitions#," Kerry pleaded in front of the Congress.

The answer came promptly from the top Democrat on the committee, Senator Robert Menendez, who said that the congressional Democrats did not want to give President Barack Obama, or any president, for that matter, an "open-ended authorization for war, a blank check" for US action against the "Islamic State" (IS).

Obama asked Congress for an Authorization for the Use of Miltary Force (AUMF) against IS about a month ago, though the military campaign had begun in August 2014. There had been concern among lawmakers that Obama might have overstepped his constitutional authority in launching the campaign.

Obama's request met with disapproval, mainly from members of his own party. The Democrats demanded a strict time limit for any combat troops.

On the occasion of the first major AUMF hearing, both lawmakers and officials of the administration were heard to say that it could be months before the House and Senate vote. Others were of the opinion that a compromise might not be possible, in the end.

Kerry too urged the divided Congress to come together and "speak with a single powerful voice."

ac/rc (Reuters, AFP)