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Congress nod not needed for Syria attack: Kerry

02 September, 2013

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WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State John Kerry said in appearances on several television news shows Sunday that Obama had the right to take action against Syria, with or without Congress approval.

But he stopped short of saying Obama was committed to such a course even if lawmakers refused to authorise the force. Congress is to return from a summer break on September 9.

Kerry maintained there was no weakness in Obama's about-face. "This case (for an attack) is going to build stronger and stronger," Kerry told NBC's "Meet the Press." He said, "The people of America should be celebrating that the president is not acting unilaterally."

Kerry told CNN's "State of the Union" that hair and blood samples from victims in eastern Damascus had "tested positive for signatures of Sarin."

Kerry said the samples were provided to the US, and did not come from the UN chemical weapons experts."In the last 24 hours, we have learnt through samples that were provided to the United States that have now been tested from first responders in east Damascus and hair samples and blood samples have tested positive for signatures of Sarin," Kerry said on NBC's "Meet The Press."

Sarin is a man-made chemical warfare agent considered as the most toxic and fast-acting of its kind. The odourless, colourless nerve agent interferes with an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase, which controls nerve signals to the muscles.

Kerry said that the use of chemical weapons put Syrian President Bashar Assad in the same category as the world's most bloody dictators."Bashar Assad now joins the list of Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein [who] used these weapons in time of war," he said.

Kerry's statement comes the day after President Barack Obama announced that he would seek congressional authorisation for a military strike in Syria. The US has said it had "high confidence" in intelligence assessments that showed the chemical weapons attack that killed over 1,400 people - including hundreds of children - was launched by the Syrian regime.

The former Massachusetts senator said that he believed Congress would pass a measure to authorise the use of force in Syria.Kerry says, "I don't think Congress will turn its back on this moment".

"I don't believe that my former colleagues in the United States Senate and the House will turn their backs on all of our interests, on the credibility of our country, on the norm with respect to the enforcement of the prohibition against the use of chemical weapons, which has been in place since 1925," he said.

But Kerry would not say whether the president would act even if Congress voted against intervention."I said that the president has the authority to act, but the Congress is going to do what's right here," he answered when pressed by NBC's David Gregory.

In a forceful speech on Friday, Kerry called Syrian President Bashar Assad a "thug and a murderer" who turned chemical weapons on innocent people in east Damascus."This is the indiscriminate, inconceivable horror of chemical weapons," he said. "This is what Assad did to his own people."

On Sunday, Kerry declined to describe the new evidence of Sarin use as a 'slam dunk' in the case against Assad, but he reiterated that the United States continues to have "high confidence" in its case against the regime.

"The word "slam-dunk" should be retired from American national security issues," he said. "We are saying that the high confidence that the intelligence community has expressed and the case that I laid out the other day is growing stronger by the day."


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