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Obama to seek congressional authorization for Syria strikes

US President Barack Obama has decided that military action should be taken in Syria. But the president said he would seek a green light from Congress before ordering any strikes.

GettyImages 178936505 WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 31: (AFP OUT) U.S. President Barack Obama (R) joined by Vice President Joe Biden delivers a statement on Syria in the Rose Garden of the White House on August 31, 2013 in Washington, DC. Obama states that he will seek Congressional authorization for the U.S. to take military action following the events in Syria. (Photo by Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images)

Barack Obama äußert sich zu Syrien am Samstag den 31. August

In a televised address in the White House's Rose Garden on Saturday, President Obama said that he had decided military action should be taken against the Assad regime. But his decision to order strikes was "not time sensitive" and could come "tomorrow or next week or one month from now."

Obama went on to say that he would seek the approval of Congress before ordering military action against Syria. He would, however, move forward even without United Nations Security Council approval.

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Obama to seek approval of Congress

"I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American peoples' representatives in Congress," the president said, adding that the vote would take place as soon as lawmakers return from their summer break.

"I'm comfortable with going forward without a UN Security Council, which has so far been completely paralyzed and unable to hold Assad accountable."

The decision to use military force comes in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta on August 21. According to Washington, 1,429 people died in the attacks, including 426 children.

The Obama administration has said that classified information obtained "from human, signals, and geospatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting" shows that the Assad regime ordered the chemical weapons attacks.

"This attack is an assault on human dignity," the president said. "It also presents a danger to our national security and risks making a mockery of the international prohibition on using chemical weapons."

UN findings expected

The Syrian government has firmly rejected allegations it was behind the chemical attacks, placing the blame on opposition forces.

A group of UN inspectors investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons left Syria on Saturday and arrived in The Hague, Netherlands.

The team was tasked with carrying out probes at three sites in Syria, including last week's alleged target.

UN spokesman Martin Nesirky told reporters in New York on Saturday that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would be briefed by the head of the inspection team, Ake Sellström, on Sunday. Nesirky did not give a timeline for when the inspectors would present their results. But he said that the team would conduct an impartial and credible investigation.

Any UN findings will not identify culpability. The investigators have a mandate only to check whether chemical weapons were used.

When asked by reporters if the secretary-general would seek to expand the inspectors' mandate, Nesirky said that the mandate had been established by the General Assembly and approved by the Security Council.

"The mandate is the mandate. The team and the secretary-general will abide by that mandate….," the UN spokesman said.

"The mandate is robust and provides for the United Nations to provide in an impartial and credible manner a picture of what happened," he continued.

slk/pfd (AP, AFP, dpa)

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