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US Senate agrees draft resolution on Syria strike

© AFP

Video by Oliver FARRY

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-09-04

A key US Senate committee agreed a draft resolution on Tuesday authorising the use of military action in Syria. If approved, the resolution would place a 60-day limit on military strikes and prohibit the use of ground troops.

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Tuesday it had reached an agreement on a draft authorisation backing the use of military force in Syria, but setting strict limits on the scope of any possible strikes.

Among the provisions set out by the draft resolution, which will be voted on Wednesday by the committee, is a 60-day limit on US military action in the country, with a possibility of a single 30-day extension subject to conditions.

The draft also expressly forbids the deployment of any US ground forces in the country.

US President Barack Obama is asking Congress to back his call for limited US strikes on Syria to punish President Bashar al-Assad for his suspected use of chemical weapons against civilians during a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people.

If the new draft resolution is approved by the committee on Wednesday, it will be sent to the full Senate for a vote after members return from their summer recess on September 9.

The House of Representatives must also pass its own version of the military authorisation, and the two must be reconciled before they can be submitted for Obama’s signature.

Senate agreement ‘narrow and focused’

Tuesday’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee agreement was put together by Senator Robert Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the panel, and Senator Bob Corker, the top Republican.

Along with the 60-day time limit and restrictions on ground forces, the resolution would also require Obama to consult with Congress and submit to the Senate and House of Representatives foreign relations panel a strategy for negotiating a political settlement to the Syria conflict, including a review of all forms of assistance to the rebels fighting to oust Assad.

This is a provision requested by several senators, including the influential Republican John McCain.

If Obama wants longer than 60 days to carry out any military action, he can request a single 30-day extension from Congress if he can demonstrate it is necessary and if he makes the request no later than five days before the 60-day limit expires.

“Together we have pursued a course of action that gives the president the authority he needs to deploy force in response to the Assad regime’s criminal use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, while assuring that the authorisation is narrow and focused, limited in time, and assures that the Armed Forces of the United States will not be deployed for combat operations in Syria,” Menendez said in a statement.

Obama also won key support on Tuesday for the military action from two leading republicans in the House of Representatives.

Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor both pledged their backing to an armed intervention in Syria following a congressional meeting with the President at the White House.

Their support could be key if Obama is to convince the Republican-majority House of Representatives to approve military action.

Kerry backtracks over use of ground forces

However, the President is likely to be disappointed by the narrow limits set by the Foreign Relations Committee’s draft resolution.

Earlier on Tuesday, Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry had urged the committee not to limit US authority to strike Syria to "one specific moment," saying that the military should have alternate strike options in the event of further chemical weapons use.

Kerry also initially said he would prefer not to bar "boots on the ground", the use of ground troops in Syria.

"I don't want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to a president of the United States to secure our country," Kerry told the committee.

However, when Senator Corker told Kerry he "didn't find that a very appropriate response regarding boots on the ground", the secretary of state seemed to backtrack.

Kerry said he was simply "thinking out loud" and raising a hypothetical situation, clarifying that he did not want to send ground troops to Syria.

"Let's shut the door now," Kerry said. "The answer is, whatever prohibition clarifies it to Congress or the American people, there will not be American boots on the ground with
respect to the civil war."

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-09-04

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