U.S. Congress
U.S. Congress AFP photo

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Saturday that an American strike in Syria is justified.

Reid added that he would hold a vote on authorizing President Barack Obama to use limited military force against Syria no later than the week of September 9.

He said the Senate would hold public hearings on the issue next week with senior Obama administration officials, and would hold classified and unclassified briefings for senators throughout the week.

"I believe the use of military force against Syria is both justified and necessary," Reid said in a statement. He added that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad had committed "atrocities" against civilians with a chemical weapons attack.

Earlier on Saturday, Obama said that he has decided to take military action against Syria, but that he wants this action approved by Congress first.

"After careful deliberation I have decided that the U.S. should take military action against Syrian targets," he said. The action will be "limited in duration and scope," he explained. The U.S. military "has positioned assets in the region" and the attack "could happen tomorrow, next week or one month from now."

However, he said, he also made a second decision: to consult with Congress and secure its approval for a strike before launching one.

"I’m prepared to give that order, but having made my decision as commander in chief based on what I am convinced is our national security interest, I’m also mindful that I’m the president of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy," Obama said. "I will seek authorization for the use of force from the American people's representatives in Congress."

On Friday, Obama told reporters that he is considering a limited action in response to a chemical weapons attack that he says Syria's government carried out last week.

Speaking before meeting at the White House with three Baltic leaders, Obama said the chemical weapons attack in Syria threatened Israel and Jordan and was also a threat to U.S. national security.

Also on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke about the chemical attack, which he said killed more than 1,400 people including some 400 children, calling Assad “a thug and a murderer.”

Kerry said that U.S. intelligence had concluded that the Syrian regime was behind the attack and urged the world to take punitive action.

Syria rejected Kerry’s remarks, saying they were fabricated and based on lies of “terrorists”, meaning the rebels fighting to oust Assad.