The Ottumwa Courier

AP National

September 18, 2013

Obama seeks Congress' support for Syria plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry told Congress on Tuesday that the United States will closely monitor every step of the plan for eliminating Syria's chemical weapons while maintaining a credible military threat against Bashar Assad's government.

Meeting behind closed doors, Kerry briefed members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the chemical weapons strategy he negotiated with Russia last week in Geneva. One of Kerry's deputies, Wendy Sherman, spoke by telephone with House Foreign Affairs Committee members.

"He (Kerry) said that the watchwords are not 'trust but verify,' they are 'verify and verify,'" Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in summing Kerry's message at the session. "I think it reflects the fact that we're dealing with a war zone, civil war under way, which makes it extremely difficult and we're dealing with questionable allies in this effort. ... It is a daunting task but it will serve the world well if we can do it and make this a safer world."

Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the committee chairman, said senators were looking for a U.N. Security Council resolution that makes the plan enforceable over the coming months.

"Each moment provides a test to see whether Assad is going to comply," Menendez said.

The talks come amid continued diplomatic wrangling over how to collect Syria's arsenal of chemical and biological agents to prevent any repeat of the Aug. 21 attack outside Damascus that, according to the U.S., killed more than 1,400 people, including at least 400 children.

In an interview Tuesday with the Spanish-language network Telemundo, President Barack Obama said evidence of a chemical weapons attack in Syria compiled by U.N. investigators should sway governments that were reluctant to hold the Assad regime accountable.

"What that does, I think, is change the international dynamic," Obama said. "I think it changes international opinion on this issue. But I am also committed to saying, 'Can we resolve this diplomatically?'"

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