Obama appeals for backing to hit Syria, Europeans urge delay

Sat Sep 7, 2013 7:34pm EDT
 

By Roberta Rampton and Justyna Pawlak

WASHINGTON/VILNIUS (Reuters) - President Barack Obama urged Americans on Saturday to back him in launching an attack on Syria, as diplomatic pressure grew on the United States to wait for a U.N. report expected in a week's time before beginning military action.

Fresh from a European trip in which he failed to forge a consensus among global leaders, Obama 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.

In Europe, pressure increased for delay. European Union foreign ministers meeting in Lithuania on Saturday blamed the August 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria on President Bashar al-Assad's government. But they did not endorse military action and made clear the bloc wanted the United Nations to have a role in agreeing on an international response.

Pope Francis, who two days ago branded a military solution in Syria "a futile pursuit," led the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in a global day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria, the Middle East and the world.

Obama, clearly still the reluctant warrior who rose to political prominence on his opposition to the Iraq war, emphasized he favored limited strikes on Syria to deter future chemical weapons attacks - not another costly and protracted conflict.

"This would not be another Iraq or Afghanistan," Obama declared in his weekly radio address, previewing arguments he will make in a nationally televised address on Tuesday.

"I know that the American people are weary after a decade of war, even as the war in Iraq has ended, and the war in Afghanistan is winding down. That's why we're not putting our troops in the middle of somebody else's war," Obama said.

Obama will give interviews on Monday to the three network news anchors, as well as PBS, CNN and Fox News, more evidence of a "full-court press" strategy before pivotal congressional votes on military strikes in Syria.   Continued...

 
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia September 6, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque