|Kerry rides Sunday talk show cycle, pitching Syria nerve gas claims
US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington has proof that Syria used sarin gas in a deadly attack in a talk show campaign he undertook Sunday.
The top US diplomat warned the world cannot turn a blind eye to chemical weapons, as he urged lawmakers to support President Barack Obama's call for limited military action.
Hair and blood samples from the emergency workers at last month's attack in Damascus given independently to the United States have shown signs of the sarin nerve gas, Kerry told US television channels, AFP reports.
“In the last 24 hours, we have learned through samples that were provided to the United States and that have now been tested from first responders in East Damascus, (that) hair samples and blood samples have tested positive for signatures of sarin,'' Kerry told NBC's Meet the Press.
He blitzed the Sunday morning talk shows, upping the ante in the Obama administration's push to build the case for US military strikes against President Bashar al-Assad.
But after an emergency classifed briefing on Sunday at the US Capitol, many US lawmakers still appeared unconvinced.
“There's no support for the resolution as it is,'' said House Democrat Jim Himes after the briefing in reference to the White House's formal request for authorization to conduct strikes.
“There is a lot of concern that the resolution as drafted is overly broad, it has no limitation in either scope or time or activity,'' he added.
“This is a partial blank check,'' agreed fellow Democratic House member Chris Van Hollen.
He pointed to the fact that there was “no prohibition in the resolution on putting American troops on the ground'' as Obama has promised.
Obama said he had decided the August 21 chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb that Washington says killed more than 1,400 people was so heinous – and such a threat to long-term US security – that he would respond with a limited military strike.
But he said he believed it was important to win Congress's support when it officially returns from its summer break on September 9.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said she was “skeptical of what the objectives are.''
“What worries me most, as atrocious as this humanitarian, terrible tragedy is in Syria, is what happens next with Iran having nuclear breakout capabilities at any moment,'' she said.
“If they think that the president is bluffing when he says: this is the red line, then is the president bluffing when he says all options are on the table with regards to Iran?''
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will debate Syria on Tuesday and a Senate aide told AFP the committee could vote on military force Wednesday.
But influential Republican Senator John McCain, who was due to meet Obama on Monday, said he was not yet sure if he would support the move during a full Senate vote expected later in the month.
“We're in a bit of a dilemma here because I think Senator Lindsey Graham and I, and others, will be wanting a strategy, a plan, rather than just we're going to launch some cruise missiles and that's it,'' he told CBS television.
“But I also am aware of the failure of Congress to endorse this plan, the signal that it sends to the world, in a very dangerous world, where we've also lost enormous credibility.''