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Syria

Syria state media calls Obama Congress request a 'retreat'

Syrian state media has called US President Barack Obama's decision to seek congressional approval before military action a "retreat." Syria's opposition has urged US lawmakers to vote in favor of military intervention.

Syria's official al-Thawra newspaper responded to Obama's announcement on Sunday with a front-page article claiming a US "retreat."

"Obama announced yesterday, directly or through implication, the beginning of the historic American retreat," said the paper, which as a state outlet reflects government thinking

It went on to claim that Obama's decision to put military intervention to a congressional vote stems from his "implicit defeat and the disappearance of his allies."

In a televised address in the White House's Rose Garden on Saturday, President Obama said that he had decided military action should be taken against the Assad regime. However, the president said he had submitted a bill to Congress to authorize the use of force, potentially delaying any strikes for at least a week.

"I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people's representatives in Congress," the president said, adding that the vote would take place as soon as lawmakers return from their summer break.

"I'm comfortable with going forward without a UN Security Council, which has so far been completely paralyzed and unable to hold [President Bashar] Assad accountable," he added.

The accelerated international debate on military intervention comes in response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta on August 21, which the US claims was carried out by President Bashar al-Assad's regime. According to Washington, 1,429 people died in the attacks, including 426 children.

The Obama administration has said that classified information obtained "from human, signals, and geospatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting" shows that the Assad regime ordered the chemical weapons attacks.

Sarin, says Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry told NBC and CNN television on Sunday that the United States had evidence that sarin gas was used.

Hair and blood samples provided to the United States from first responders who sent to the scene of the 21 August attack had "tested positive for signatures of sarin," Kerry said.

Syrian opposition calls for intervention

The Syrian opposition coalition urged on US lawmakers on Sunday to approve military action, which should include the arming of the rebel Free Syrian Army.

"The National Coalition calls on members of the US Congress to assume their historic responsibility towards the Syrian people, and ... stop the regime's killing machine."

"If the free world fails to respond to such an outrageous breach of international norms, dictators around the world will be encouraged in their efforts to follow the example set by Assad." it added.

ccp/ipj (AFP, AP)