WASHINGTON, Sept. 9 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday welcomed a Russian proposal to put Syrian chemical weapons under international control, but stressed it was not time to let up on military threat.
In multiple interviews with TV networks, Obama said he would prefer a diplomatic solution to the crisis rather than a military attack.
"I consider this (Russian proposal) a modestly positive development," Obama told ABC News' Diane Sawyer in an interview at the White House when asked whether Syria's expressed willingness to relinquish control of its chemical weapons would prevent a U.S. strike.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made the proposal earlier in the day, asking Syria to "place its chemical weapons stockpiles under international control so they can be destroyed." The proposal was met with positive response from Syria.
"If we can accomplish this limited goal without taking military action, that would be my preference," Obama said during an interview with CNN, one of the six networks that interviewed him Monday afternoon.
But the president also expressed skepticism whether Syria would turn over its chemical weapons, and would take the statements coming out of Syrian government officials in support of the Russian proposal "with a grain of salt."
"(Secretary of State) John Kerry and the rest of my national security team will engage with the Russians and the international community to see whether we can arrive at something that is enforceable and serious," said Obama.
The president said his administration will engage in talks with Russia and Syria. "We're going to run this to ground," he said during an interview with CNN.
"We don't want just a stalling or delaying tactic to put off the pressure that we have on them right now," he told the NBC.
But at the same time, Obama said a potential diplomatic resolution doesn't mean that Congress should withdraw the threat of military action.
"I don't think we would have gotten to this point unless we had maintained a credible possibility for a military strike and I don't think now is the time for us to let up on that," Obama said.
"If we don't maintain and move forward without a credible threat of military pressure, I don't think we'll actually get the kind of agreement I'd like to see."
The Obama administration is accusing the Syrian government of using chemical weapons, and is seeking Congressional approval for a military strike to punish Syria. But the White House PR blitz has met with considerable resistance, and Obama is mobilizing the full weight of his presidency to do the persuasion.
The White House organized multiple briefings during the day, with more than 70 lawmakers of both parties coming through the White House on Monday alone. Obama himself dropped by a briefing to the Congressional Black Caucus by National Security Adviser Susan Rice, staying for about an hour.
Obama has also dropped by a dinner with senators Sunday night at Vice President Joe Biden's residence. He is also scheduled to meet with senators on Tuesday, hours before addressing the nation in a prime time address.
However, the blitz didn't seem to move the vote count on the Syrian issue, as Congressional support to military action continued to fall on Monday, when a handful of Senate Republicans and one Senate Democrat announced their opposition.
According to a vote count by The Washington Post, 25 Senators were for military action as of Monday evening, while 31 were against or leaning toward "No," and 44 remained undecided.
Things were worse in the House, which is unlikely to take up the resolution unless Senate passed. The Washington Post vote count said only 26 representatives were for military action, while 241 were opposed or leaning "No" and 166 remained undecided.
Of the two chambers, the Senate is considered more likely to pass the resolution, and commentators believe the low support in the upper chamber spell trouble for Obama. When asked about his chances of convincing the skeptical Congress during the Monday interviews, Obama conceded "I wouldn't say I'm confident."
After Obama has termed the Russian proposal as "a potentially positive development," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delayed a test vote on the resolution scheduled for Wednesday, citing that "international discussions" are continuing for a peaceful settlement of the crisis.