Obama says he talked to Putin about Syria's chemical weapons
Tuesday, September 10, 2013 - 01:54
Sept. 9 - U.S. President Barack Obama told the PBS Newshour program that he discussed the idea of Syrian chemical weapons coming under international control with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Rough cut (no reporter narration)
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STORY: President Barack Obama said in an interview with U.S. broadcaster PBS that he spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin about Syria turning over its chemical weapons to international control at the G20 meetings last week.
"I did have those conversations. And this is a continuation of conversations I've had with President Putin for quite some time," said Obama. "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. But we're going to have to see specifics. And I think it is reasonable to assume that we would not be at this point if there were not a credible military threat standing behind the norm against the use of chemical weapons."
Obama failed to forge a consensus among global leaders during the European trip and the U.S. President has plunged into a campaign on radio and television to try to convince a skeptical U.S. public and Congress of the need for a military strike on Syria.
"I'm not sure that we're ever going to get a majority of the American people, after over a decade of war, after what happened in Iraq, to say that any military action, particularly in the Middle East, makes sense in the absence of some direct threat or attack against us. And that's understandable," Obama said during the interview.
"Tomorrow I'll speak to the American people. I'll explain this is not Iraq; this is not Afghanistan; this is not even Libya. We're not talking about - not boots on the ground. We're not talking about sustained airstrikes. We're talking about a very specific set of strikes to degrade his chemical weapons capabilities in terms of delivery."
Lawmakers returning to Washington after a summer break say many of their constituents have told them they do not think the United States should respond militarily to the August chemical weapons attack that Washington blames on Assad's government.
The Obama administration says over 1,400 people were killed by the poison gas, hundreds of them children. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll said 56 percent of Americans believed the United States should not intervene in Syria; 19 percent backed action.
Obama is seeking congressional approval for a strike, but early vote-count estimates do not look encouraging for the president, with scores of lawmakers still undecided. The Senate is expected to take action next week. The House of Representatives will vote later, but the time is not set.
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