BEIJING, Sept. 3 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. government continues to lobby the Congress to support military strikes against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons in an Aug. 21 attack, while UN inspectors are expediting analyzing samples collected from the attack site.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday invited hawkish Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who favored taking a step further than just missile attacks, to the White House to discuss military intervention in Syria.
The United States claimed that Syrian government forces, under the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad, used chemical weapons on civilians on Aug. 21 in an attack in the suburbs of Damascus, capital of Syria, killing 1,429 people, including 426 children. But the Syrian government denied the accusation.
After the meeting with Obama, McCain warned against the peril of not backing up the president on an expressed threat to use force.
Senior U.S. officials on Sunday held a classified briefing with a group of ranking lawmakers, trying to convince them about the need for a military action against Syria, and to win their support in pending Congressional vote on the authorization.
The officials tried to convince the lawmakers why the U.S. government needs to respond to the Syrian crisis, in a push to garner more support to Obama's decision to launch a limited military strike on Syria.
Meanwhile, samples collected by UN inspectors from the site of the Aug. 21 attack in Syria were shipped on Monday from The Hague, the Netherlands, and will soon reach their designated laboratories for analyses.
The UN fact-finding group, led by Swedish specialist Ake Sellstrom, was created by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in March at the request of the Syrian government. The investigators were ordered out of the war-torn country Saturday to return to The Hague.
A UN spokesman said Ban discussed with Sellstrom on how to expedite the process of analyzing the samples but did not disclose how long the process will take.
Assad, in an interview with French daily Le Figaro, said if the Western countries have evidence about the alleged chemical weapon attack, they would have declared it.
He warned a military intervention would risk igniting a "regional war" in the Middle East.
Regarding Obama's recent tactic to resort to the Congress to authorize the war on Syria, Assad said whoever wants to vote must ask himself: what good did previous wars bring to America and Europe? what result did the world achieve after the war on Libya and Iraq?
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Monday ruled out the possibility of NATO's role in possible military strikes against Syria, but he added that the international community should respond to the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria.
While the British parliament vetoed last week any military action against Syria and Obama decided to consult the Congress, French President Francois Hollande reaffirmed his determination to punish the perpetrators and will discuss the Syrian issue during an emergency parliament meeting on Wednesday.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault rejected Monday opposition's calls for a parliament vote on the Syria crisis.
Under France's Constitution, Hollande, who is also head of the army, can order any military action but has to inform the parliament within three days of its starting. Lawmakers' vote will be compulsory if the operation would last more than four months.
Ayrault also unveiled an intelligence report during a meeting with lawmakers, which showed forces loyal to Assad were behind the alleged chemical attack.
Also on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for a "direct and open" dialogue between Russian lawmakers with their U.S. colleagues on the Syria issue so that they would better understand Moscow's stances.
At the same time, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hong Lei said "China is firmly opposed to the use of chemical weapons by any party in Syria and expresses serious concern about preparations by relevant countries for unilateral military action."
"Any action by the international community should respect the rules of the UN Charter and basic rules of international relations," Hong said,adding that taking actions should avoid further complicating the Syria issue and avoid bringing more disaster to the Middle East.
UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) -- The samples collected by UN inspectors from the site of the alleged Aug. 21 chemical weapons attacks in Syria were shipped from The Hague, the Netherlands, Monday and will reach their designated laboratories "within hours, " said a UN spokesman.
"The samples were shipped this afternoon from The Hague and will reach their destination within hours," UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said in a note emailed to reporters here. "The designated laboratories are prepared to begin the analyses immediately after receipt of samples." Full story
DAMASCUS, Sept.2 (Xinhua) -- Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said if the Western countries have evidence about his administration's involvement in a chemical gas attack, they would have declared it, the state-run SANA news agency reported Monday.
"If the Americans, French or British have evidence about the alleged chemical weapon attack, they would have declared it," the president told the Le Figaro, a French daily newspaper, in a recent interview whose excerpts were carried by SANA. Full story
PARIS, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) -- French intelligence reports indicated that the chemical attack of Aug. 21 in Damascus was conducted by the Syrian government forces.
The nine-page intelligence report, declassified by the French government on Monday, said since April this year, at least three chemical attacks including the one on Aug. 21 taking place in Syria, were staged by the forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Full story
MOSCOW, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) -- An initiative to send a delegation ofRussian lawmakers for direct talks with their U.S. colleagues on Syrian problem is timely and correct, President Vladimir Putin said Monday.
"Indeed, in order to better understand each other, there is no other way but a direct and open dialogue with arguments and with the presentation of positions," Putin told the heads of the Parliament's Upper House, or the Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko and Lower House, or the State Duma, Sergei Naryshkin. Full story
WASHINGTON, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday invited Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham to the White House to discuss military intervention in Syria as the administration is bracing for Congressional approval of strikes against Bashar al-Assad's government for punishing it for the alleged Aug. 21 use of chemical weapons on its citizens.
After the meeting with Obama, McCain warned against the peril of not backing up the president on an expressed threat to use force. Full story