US building coalition for Syria strikes, Kerry says
An international coalition for action against Syria is growing, Secretary of State John Kerry told US lawmakers Wednesday, adding Arab nations had even offered to help pay for any strikes.
"We are building support with ... other countries, among them the Arab League," Kerry said, as the US administration tries to sell its plan for military action to punish Damascus for its alleged use of chemical weapons.
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"Specific countries that have talked in terms of acting" were "Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Qataris, the Turks and the French."
The move comes after a suspected chemical weapons attack on a suburb of the Syrian capital last month, which Washington says killed 1,400 people.
The United States had reached out to more than 100 countries as it works to shape a coalition in favor of military intervention, the top diplomat told a House of Representatives committee.
President Barack Obama has insisted the Syrian regime of his counterpart Bashar al-Assad has crossed a red line against the use of chemical weapons and should be punished with his military capability degraded.
"Thirty-one countries or organizations have stated publicly or privately that the Assad regime is responsible for this attack, and that was before our evidence package was put together," Kerry said.
"And 34 countries or organizations have indicated that if the allegations prove to be true, they would support some form of action against Syria."
He even suggested the United States had too many offers of help as he sought for a second day to persuade US lawmakers to back Obama's plan for limited missile strikes against the Syrian regime.
"A number of them have asked to be part of a military operation," he told the four-hour hearing. "The Turks, a NATO country, have condemned (the attack), pinned it on Assad, asked to be part of an operation."
"The French have volunteered to be part of an operation. There are others who have volunteered. But frankly ... we got more volunteers that we can use for this kind of an operation," Kerry said.
And a number of Arab League countries had offered to help bear the cost, he said, adding the amount on the table was "quite significant."
"Some of them have said that if the United States is prepared to go do the whole thing the way we've done it previously in other places, they'll carry that cost. That's how dedicated they are to this."
He was appearing before the House Foreign Affairs committee on the second day of the administration's blitz on Capitol Hill to convince lawmakers to approve limited military strikes.
In a sign of public opposition to the plan, anti-war demonstrators held up red-stained hands behind Kerry's head in a silent protest as he spoke.
But he told the panel Assad now only had "three principle supporters" -- Iran, Hezbollah and Russia -- while "the rest of the world is in horror of what is happening."
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel even alleged that some of Assad's stockpile of chemical weapons had come from Moscow.
Asked which countries were handing over such arms, Hagel replied: "Well, the Russians supply them. Others are supplying them with those chemical weapons. They make some themselves."
Obama's plan for military strikes passed its first congressional hurdle Wednesday, with a draft resolution authorizing limited military intervention for 90 days passing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
It will now be debated by the full Senate, with the House due to take up consideration of the proposed measure next week.
by Tangi QUEMENER © 2013 AFP
Source : AFP
Dec 9 - 11, 2013 - Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates