Obama: Syria Disarmament Could Avert Strike
TEHRAN (Tasnim) - US President Barack Obama said he would consider a Russian diplomatic offer for Syria to give up its chemical weapons, adding that he was not confident of political support for military action.
Obama's comments came in interviews late on Monday as the US Senate decided to delay its vote on military action - capping a day of shifting positions from within the administration and on Capitol Hill.
The US president told ABC News that any strike against Syria would "absolutely" be put on hold if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were to turn over the weapons.
It began with Secretery of State John Kerry saying, in response to a reporter's question, that there would be no need for military action if Assad handed over his chemical weapons - an answer that was then presented by Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, as a workable plan.
The US administration at first stated that Kerry's response was only rhetorical, but within hours the president said in interviews with six US networks that a diplomatic solution should be sought.
Obama said on CNN that the Russian plan was "a potentially positive development", while on NBC he said it could be a "significant breakthrough".
He told PBS: "I have instructed John Kerry to talk directly to the Russians and run this to ground and if we can exhaust these diplomatic efforts and come up with a formula that gives the international community a verifiable enforceable mechanism to deal with these chemical weapons in Syria then I'm all for it."
Obama's comments were broadcast as the Senate majority leader Harry Reid delayed a vote scheduled for Wednesday on military action, citing "international discussions", while Democratic senators Dianne Feinstein and Carl Levin released statements calling for the Russian solution to be considered.
Obama, who meets senators on Tuesday, conceded that he may lose his campaign in Congress for authorisation. "I wouldn't say I'm confident," he said.
Lavrov said Syria, as well as handing over the weapons and having them destroyed, should also become a full member of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said he too welcomed Russia's proposals and called for the creation of UN-supervised zones in Syria where chemical weapons could be destroyed.