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Obama Tells Congress United Front on Syria Strengthens U.S. Hand

Sept. 3 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama told leaders of Congress he wants a “prompt” vote authorizing military action against Syria, saying a united front will strengthen the U.S. hand in confronting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Obama vowed that any strike by the U.S. will be limited and “proportional,” and won’t involve U.S. ground troops. He indicated he’s open to changes in the resolution authorizing force to respond to concerns of lawmakers.

“This is not Iraq and this is not Afghanistan,” Obama said at the White House.

Obama spoke just before a meeting with congressional leaders from both parties and the top lawmakers on the main committees dealing with national security issues. The session is part of the administration’s campaign to persuade U.S. lawmakers that the U.S. needs to apply military force in response to the Syrian government’s use of sarin gas against civilians last month.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold its first hearing on Obama’s request for congressional authorization to take military action against Syria, with Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testifying.

The administration also is conducting a classified briefing open to all members of Congress.

The military authorization is consuming all debate in Washington over the next several days as Obama and his aides press skeptical lawmakers, some of whom are questioning the evidence gathered by intelligence agencies or whether the U.S. has a vital security interest at stake.

An Israeli missile-defense test this morning shook a region already on edge anticipating a military strike. Stock and oil markets were briefly rattled by what Israel described as a joint flight test with the U.S. of its Arrow missile interception system over the Mediterranean Sea.

To contact the reporters on this story: Lisa Lerer in Washington at llerer@bloomberg.net; Joe Sobczyk in Washington at jsobczyk@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net

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