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Obama Says Failing to Act Against Syria Risks Emboldening Assad

President Barack Obama said failing to respond militarily to the sarin gas attack in Syria would embolden Bashar al-Assad to strike with chemical weapons again and erode the international norm against using such arms.

Obama sought to keep up pressure on the U.S. Congress as it considers authorizing him to use force against Syria and to build more international support for U.S. action.

“My credibility is not on the line, the international community’s credibility is on the line” because of the broad consensus that chemical weapons use must be prohibited, Obama said at a news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in Stockholm.

“Are we going to try to find a reason not to act?” he said. “If that’s the case, I think the world should admit it.”

Obama spoke before a planned vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today on a resolution approving U.S. military action with a 90-day limit and with language prohibiting any commitment of combat ground troops.

While congressional leaders of both parties said they supported Obama’s request for authority, the call for action faces opposition in Congress that crosses party and regional lines.

Obama wouldn’t directly say whether he would take military action without congressional approval. “I believe Congress will approve it,” he said.

While the agenda for Obama and Reinfeldt included economic growth in the U.S. and Europe, climate change and trade, Syria was a dominant topic during the president’s visit.

Reinfeldt said a decision on the use of military force belongs at the United Nations. Standing next to Obama at the news conference, Reinfeldt said he also understood the consequences of letting the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria go unanswered.

Obama heads tomorrow to St. Petersburg, Russia, for the G-20 summit, where Syria also is likely to cast a shadow over the two-day economic summit hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Syria’s ally who has blocked action in the United Nations Security Council.

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