Kerry to Lavrov: US not 'playing games'
US secretary of state stresses that Russian proposal will not delay efforts to secure congressional authorization to use force against Syria.Rice says US cannot allow countries like North Korea or Iran think Washington would not react to chemical weapons attack in Syria
US Secretary of State John Kerry told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over a telephone conversation on Monday that the United States is not going to "play games" but if there was a serious proposal, US would take a look at it.
Kerry told Lavrov the idea will not be a reason to delay Washington efforts to secure congressional authorization to use force against Syria.
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White House national security adviser Susan Rice said on Monday that any US military action against Syria "would not be another war."
She added the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against its own people and said that raises threats to other countries in the region, including Israel, the region's top US ally.
Rice's remarks Monday to the New America Foundation think tank are part of a White House effort to build support with the public and in Congress to authorize President Barack Obama to use military action against the Syrian government.
According to Rice, the Obama administration and allies have exhausted other measures to stop Syria's use of weapons.
White House national security adviser Susan Rice
"We cannot allow terrorists bent on destruction, or a nuclear North Korea, or an aspiring nuclear Iran, to believe for one minute that we are shying away from our determination to back up our longstanding warnings," Obama's top security adviser asserted.
In her speech, Rice said the United States intends to renew its push for the UN-sponsored Geneva peace process in Syria following any limited military strikes that are currently being considered by the US Congress.
Obama with Congress leaders (Photo: AFP)
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was blaming the Syrian government for using deadly chemical weapons in what he called a "clear violation of human decency."
In remarks in the Senate on Monday, the Democratic leader said failure of the United States to respond would embolden hostile forces worldwide.
Reid made the remarks as President Barack Obama faced stiff resistance from Democrats and Republicans to his request for the authority to use military force against Syria.
Reid said the Senate will be voting to uphold a century-long tradition that chemical weapons have no place on the battlefield. Reid moved for a key procedural vote on Wednesday.
US State Department said on Monday that the United States will take a hard look at the Russian proposal to put Syrian chemical weapons under international control, but was still skeptical regarding the proposal.
"We'll have to take a hard look at the Russian statement ... so we understand exactly what the Russians are proposing here," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said. "Clearly we have some serious skepticism," she said.
Harf said the US would consider the proposal floated by the foreign ministers of Russia and Syria with "serious skepticism" because it might be a stalling tactic. She said Syria had consistently refused to destroy its chemical weapons in the past.
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a potential 2016 presidential nominee, backed President Barack Obama's attempts to seek military action against Syria on Monday and urged Congress to support him.
In a White House event about wildlife trafficking, Clinton diverted from the subject to comment on efforts to pressure Syria over an August 21 chemical weapons attack that US officials say killed 1,429 people.
It would be an "important step" if the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad immediately ceded control of chemical weapons, she said.
"The Assad regime's inhumane use of weapons of mass destruction against innocent men, women and children violates a universal norm at the heart of our global order," Clinton said.
The Russian proposal came after Secretary of State John Kerry said in London on Monday that Syrian President Bashar Assad could end the crisis by turning over all his chemical weapons. Harf said Kerry wasn't putting forth a formal proposal.
AP, Reuters contributed to this report
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