|A protester holds a banner as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry testifies in a House of Representatives hearing about Syria on Capitol Hill in Washington Sept. 4, 2013. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday testified in a House of Representatives hearing about Syria, striving to sell President Barack Obama's plan for a punitive strike against the government of Bashar al-Assad for alleged use of chemical weapons. (Xinhua/Wang Yi'ou)
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WASHINGTON, Sept. 4 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday testified in a House of Representatives hearing about Syria, striving to sell President Barack Obama's plan for a punitive strike against the government of Bashar al-Assad for alleged use of chemical weapons.
Kerry, echoing Obama, said the "red line" against the use of chemical weapons wasn't drawn by the president alone, but "this is about the world's red line," while promising the House Foreign Relations Committee that there would be no boots on the ground in a strike against Syria.
"We have no intention of assuming responsibility for Assad's civil war," said Kerry, who raised some eyebrows Tuesday for suggesting the possibility of sending ground troops into Syria during a Senate hearing.
Kerry also said the administration is working feverishly to gain international support for a Syria strike, and the U.S. side has "reached out to over 100 countries," adding several allies in the Middle East have "offered to be part of this operation." He didn't identify those countries.
"I will be meeting with the foreign ministers of Europe, the 28 foreign ministers in Vilnius on Saturday. This will clearly be a topic of discussion. And many of them have had reservations, waiting for the evidence. So I see many more countries joining," said Kerry.
Kerry is to attend the European Union foreign ministers meeting Saturday in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Hagel, who was also a witness at the hearing, weighed in from a military perspective by telling lawmakers a strike against Syria would significantly reduce Damascus' military power.
"This would be a significant strike that would in fact degrade his (Assad's) capability," Hagel said, noting it wouldn't be a " pin prick." He also said if the U.S. side wouldn't act, the likelihood for Syrian government to use chemical weapons again is "very high." The Syrian government has denied the accusation of chemical weapons.
This is the second day the secretaries engaged in hearings to sell the military action on Syria to a skeptical Congress, with mixed results.
Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee appeared divided, and Ed Royce, the committee chair, said he was skeptical that the United States would be able to avoid an escalation in fighting.
"The president promises a military operation in Syria of limited scope and duration," said Royce. "But the Assad regime would have a say in what happens next. That'd be particularly true as President Obama isn't aiming to change the situation on the ground."