In their interest

Protesters block Whitehall outside Downing Street
Protesters block Whitehall outside Downing Street

WASHINGTON — United States President Barack Obama told Americans a military strike against Syria is in their interest, although there were signs today that any action will be delayed at least several days while the case is laid out to US and British lawmakers.

Senior Obama administration officials were expected to brief congressional leaders today, with lawmakers complaining they have not been properly consulted about plans to respond to what Washington says was the gassing of civilians.

The United Nations said chemical weapons inspectors investigating the attacks will leave Syria on Saturday and then report on their findings to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

In Britain — the closest US ally and a key player in any air assault on Syria — parliament cut short its summer break for a debate today on Syria likely to reveal deep misgivings stemming from the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Britain said yesterday it would not act until it receives the findings of the UN inspectors, after which parliament will be given a chance for a decisive vote.

Increasing expectations of a delay ended a three-day sell off on world share markets today, but investors were still on edge over future turmoil in the Middle East.

Obama sought to win over a war-weary American public by saying intervention in Syria, where more than 100,000 people have been killed in two and a half years of civil war, would serve US national security interests.

“If we are saying in a clear and decisive but very limited way, we send a shot across the bow saying, ‘Stop doing this,’ this can have a positive impact on our national security over the long term,” he told PBS Newshour in a televised interview.

While saying he had not yet made a decision on military action, Obama left little doubt the choice was not whether but when to punish Syria for the gas attacks, which killed hundreds of people in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus.

“We have concluded that the Syrian government in fact carried these out,” he said last evening.

Syria denies blame for the gas attacks and says they were perpetrated by rebels. Washington and its allies say the denial is not credible. (Reuters)

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