Putin warns US that Syria strike would be 'aggression'
Russian president tells Obama he needs UN approval for attack as White House secures bipartisan support
PRESIDENT OBAMA has won support for a limited military strike on Syria from Republican and Democratic leaders, a key development ahead of next week's Congress vote on the issue.
But Russia's President Putin has warned that any US assault taken without UN Security Council approval would be "an aggression".
The New York Times says Obama's success in securing the support of the leaders of both main parties has given him "a foundation" to win broader approval for military action from Congress. But the paper points out that many members of Congress still harbour deep reservations about the US going it alone in an attack on the Assad regime.
Those concerns will hardly have been allayed by President Putin's comments, made on the eve of the G20 summit which begins in St Petersburg tomorrow. Putin told reporters it was "ludicrous" that President Assad would use chemical weapons at a time when his forces were gaining ground against the rebels.
Despite his stark warning about unilateral action by the US, Putin's stance on Syria does appear to have shifted somewhat, the BBC suggests. He made it clear that Russia would be "ready to act in the most decisive and serious way" if there was clear proof that chemical weapons had been used and by whom.
Putin also confirmed that Moscow had delivered some components of its S-300 missile system to Syria, but said the deliveries had been suspended. Experts have said the installation of the advanced air defence system would make it far harder for the US to enforce a-no fly zone.
Here is a round-up of other key developments:
John Kerry: "physical evidence" of chemical attack: There is "proof beyond any reasonable doubt" that the Assad regime used chemical weapons in the Damascus suburbs on 21 August, the US Secretary of State told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last night. Kerry added that the US has "physical evidence" that the regime launched missiles containing sarin gas and warned its troops to use gas masks when they struck their target. Kerry's performance at the three-hour hearing was far from polished, says the Daily Telegraph. At one point he implied that US troops could be sent to Syria if the country "imploded", but subsequently insisted there "will not be American boots on the ground". Kerry also drew "bewildered responses" from his inquisitors when he told them President Obama was "not asking America to go to war".
UK may give more support to rebels: Despite the crushing blow delivered by the Commons to David Cameron's plans for military intervention in Syria, Whitehall has repeatedly refused to rule out giving more support to the rebels, the Daily Mail reports. While giving arms to the rebels was "not on the cards", it is expected that the UK could give "more technical support and equipment, including chemical weapons protection kit, and assistance in areas opposition forces have taken from the regime", the paper says.
Strike would "re-balance" Syrian war, says France: A military strike against the Assad regime would re-balance the country's civil war, a spokesman for the French government told Al-Jazeera. Meanwhile, Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, said that the "equation" in Syria needed to be shifted. "If you want a political solution you have to move the situation," he said.