President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama Reuters

President Barack Obama on Tuesday asked Congress to delay votes on authorizing military strikes against Syria in order to give Russia time to get Syria to surrender any chemical weapons it possesses, Reuters reported, citing senators.

"What he (Obama) wants is to check out the seriousness of the Syrian and the Russian willingness to get rid of those chemical weapons in Syria. He wants time to check it out," Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin told reporters.

Levin made his remarks after a lunch meeting on Capitol Hill that Obama attended. On Monday, the Senate began debating a resolution backing U.S. military strikes against Syria, which was requested by Obama on August 31.

Russia has proposed that Syria’s chemical weapons be put under “international supervision,” and later destroyed. Syrian President Al-Bashar Assad’s regime has agreed in principle to the arrangement.

On Monday, in six interviews he gave to American media outlets on Syria, Obama said the Russian plan was a “potentially positive development”, but also said he was skeptical that the Syrians would cooperate given their past behavior.

“I think what we're seeing is that a credible threat of a military strike from the United States, supported potentially by a number of other countries around the world has given them pause and makes them consider whether or not they would make this move. And if they do, then this could potentially be a significant breakthrough. But we have to be skeptical because this is not how we've seen them operate-- over the last couple a years,” he said.

Syria has one of the world’s largest stockpile of chemical weapons which, according to a report this week, it was able to amass with help not only from allies Russia and Iran, but also from Western European suppliers and even a handful of American companies.

The Russian plan comes alongside news that Moscow has fast-tracked the transfer of several S-300 missile batteries into Syria.