President Barack Obama says he has decided that the United States should take military action against Syria in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack.
But he says he will seek congressional authorization for the use of force.
He says congressional leadership plans to hold a debate and a vote as soon as Congress comes back in September.
Obama says he has the authority to act on his own, but believes it is important for the country to have a debate.
Military action would be in response to a chemical weapons attack the U.S. says Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government carried out against civilians.
The U.S. says more than 1.400 Syrians were killed in that attack last week.
Meanwhile Russia dramatically escalated its denunciations of American threats to attack Syrian military targets on Saturday, as President Vladimir Putin called the arguments about chemical weapons that underlie the U.S. case “utter nonsense”.
The Foreign Ministry said a U.S. attack would be a “gross violation” of international law.
Speaking out for the first time since an alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus on Aug. 21, President Putin called on President Obama to find a nonviolent way out of the crisis.
“I would like to address Obama as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate: Before using force in Syria, it would be good to think about future casualties”, Putin told Russian news agencies in Vladivostok during a tour of the country’s flood-stricken Far East.
“Russia is urging you to think twice before making a decision on an operation in Syria”, he said.
Next week’s Group of 20 economic summit in St. Petersburg would be a good forum for discussing the Syrian issue, he said, “so why not take advantage of it?”
The White House argued Friday that intelligence shows more than 1.400 people died from exposure to chemical weapons in an attack carried out by the Syrian military.
President Putin said he was sure the attack was the work of rebels trying to provoke international — and especially American — involvement in the Syrian conflict. The regime of Bashar al-Assad, he said, would have had no reason to use chemical weapons at a time when it had gained the upper hand in the fighting.
“While the Syrian army is on the offensive, saying that it is the Syrian government that used chemical weapons is utter nonsense”, Putin said.
On top of that, he said, the Obama administration’s “claims that proof exists, but is classified and cannot be presented to anybody, are below criticism. This is plain disrespect for their partners”.
Putin’s comments were soon underlined by a stern statement from the Foreign Ministry. After U.S. Ambassador Michael McFaul had finished a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Rybakov on Saturday, the ministry declared, “Russia has expressed its conviction that any forceful action against Syria that the U.S. could carry out in circumvention of the U.N. Security Council would be an act of aggression and a gross violation of international law”.
Putin said he was surprised by the vote in Britain’s Parliament on Thursday not to join a U.S. attack on Syrian military targets. “It shows that there are people guided by common sense there”, he said.
Putin said he and Obama have not discussed Syria since the alleged chemical weapons attack occurred.