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      Senate Could Vote on Syria Next Week, Say Lawmakers

      Senate could vote on Syria strike as soon as next week if efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis fail.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 9/12/2013, 4:16 AM

      President Barack Obama
      President Barack Obama
      Reuters

      Lawmakers in the United States said on Wednesday the Senate could start voting on a resolution to authorize the use of military force against Syria as soon as next week if efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis fall short.

      A resolution authorizing strikes against Syria was expected to come before the full Senate for a vote this week, but President Barack Obama on Tuesday asked to delay it in order to give Russia time to get Syria to surrender any chemical weapons it possesses.

      Senators said on Wednesday they would move ahead with a vote if necessary, saying they felt the continued threat of force would pressure Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, according to Reuters.

      "That would be a decision made with the administration on strategy as to the timing of Senate action. I think it could be next week... I would not rule out next week," Senator Ben Cardin, a senior Democratic member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters.

      Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations panel held separate meetings on Wednesday so committee leaders could assess members' attitudes about events in Syria.

      Afterward, members said they expected it would be at least a few days before the Senate decided what steps to take next as they await the outcome of Secretary of State John Kerry's meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Thursday and Friday, and any action at the United Nations.

      "Right now the focus is on Geneva and the United Nations, and I want to make certain that we don't do anything that's going to derail a constructive, diplomatic approach to solving this problem," said committee member Richard Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate.

      Lawmakers also continued to work on an amendment to the authorization taking into account the Russia-backed plan. Among other things, the amendment would set strict time limits for Assad to hand over his weapons and authorize strikes if he fails to do so.

      "There's a strong belief that keeping the credible use of military force is very necessary, and that to the extent that we consider any language, that that must be a prevalent part," said Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, the committee chairman, who is working with the group of eight other senators on the amendment.

      At Russia's urging, Damascus has said it wants to put its arsenal of chemical weapons under international supervision in compliance with the 1993 convention banning the weapons.

      The UN Security Council is set to meet Wednesday night to discuss the situation in Syria, but the Security Council has failed for more than two years to agree on a resolution on Syria. This is mostly because China and Russia, close allies of Assad, have used their veto power on such resolutions.