Play videoOlivier Knox, Yahoo! News 8 hours ago PoliticsBarack ObamaBashar al-AssadSyriaWhite House In a legacy-defining gamble, President Barack Obama announced Saturday that he has decided to launch military strikes against Syria — but wants the Congress to authorize them.“In a world with many dangers, this menace must be confronted,” Obama declared in the Rose Garden 10 days after Bashar Assad’s forces allegedly massacred 1,400 civilians with chemical weapons.“After careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets,” he said, describing himself as “prepared to give that order.”The president’s hastily arranged remarks — demonstrators protesting outside the White House gates could be heard from the West Wing only minutes before he spoke — sucked the urgency out of what had looked like a imminent military strike.Instead, cruise missile-carrying warships off Syria’s coast will have to wait until the week of Sept. 9. That’s when Congress returns from a month-long vacation to take up a measure, drafted by the White House, giving Obama the green-light.“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.”The president ignored a reporter who shouted the obvious question: What happens if Congress says no? But senior administration officials briefing reporters at the White House later said that Obama still believes he has the legal authority to act without congressional support — meaning that a “no” vote would not necessarily handcuff his foreign policy. And they disputed that Obama risked setting a precedent that could limit the power of future occupants of the Oval Office.View gallery.”President Barack Obama meets in the Situation Room with his national security advisers to discuss st …The same officials also sidestepped repeated questions about what happens if Assad responds by stepping up chemical attacks against rebels looking to oust him.The president himself said there was no sell-by-date for action. “Our capacity to execute this mission is not time-sensitive; it will be effective tomorrow, or next week, or one month from now,” he said.Obama’s decision came amid public opinion polls showing four out of five Americans wanted the president to seek lawmakers’ approval, and with more than 100 congressional signatures on a pair of letters delivering the same message.Obama has acknowledged repeatedly that Americans are “war-weary” after a decade of conflict — and worried about standing on the threshold of another escalating entanglement in the Middle East.“This would not be an open-ended intervention, we would not put boots on the ground,” he promised Saturday. “Instead, our action would be designed to be limited in duration and scope.”The president said he had spoken by telephone with Republican House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and that they agreed with the timetable.It also followed a series of diplomatic setbacks: Russian opposition blocked a path through the United Nations Security Council, and Britain’s parliament shocked the world Thursday by voting against military action. France signed on, but its parliament planned to debate the issue next week.Denied both clear international legal legitimacy and a robust “coalition of the willing,” facing clear public resistance as well as a surprisingly assertive Congress, and trapped by his own declaration that Syria had crossed a “red line,” Obama went from saying he would “consult” Capitol Hill to actively courting its support.View gallery.”U.S. President Barack Obama speaks next to Vice President Joe Biden (L) at the Rose Garden of the Wh …The senior aides briefing reporters after Obama’s remarks suggested that he had largely settled on a course of action in an Aug. 24 National Security Council meeting, but did not make a final decision about using force until Friday.No one — not Obama, not senior aides, not congressional leaders — had suggested securing congressional approval.And then, sometime around 6 p.m. ET, Obama went for a 45-minute stroll around the South Lawn of the White House with Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, the aides said. During that walk, the president said that he wanted to go to Congress.A two-hour meeting, from about 7 p to 9 p.m., followed with senior aides during which Obama to shared the same message. Some aides argued against that course-correction, the officials told reporters.But by the time a National Security Council meeting wrapped up on Saturday, they were all on board, the aides said.And they detailed the coming campaign to get Congress on board:- Hammer home the potential threat to staunch ally Israel’s security- Provide detailed intelligence about the alleged attack- Underline that the United States ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, and make a case that American legitimacy — not just his own — is at stake.- Make the argument that failure to act could lead, one day, to terrorists acquiring chemical weapons from regimes like Assad’s — and turning them on America.
Obama aides to brief Senators on Saturday, House members Sunday as Syria strike loomsView galleryMarch 8, 2005 – A Syrian soldier riding on top of a tank gestures after leaving his position, in Daher El-Baidar mountain region on the main Beirut-Damascus Highway Lebanon heading towards the Bekaa Valley during a continuing redeployment of troops near the village of Chtoura, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, March 8, 2005. (AP Photo/str)Olivier Knox, Yahoo! News 11 hours ago PoliticsBarack ObamaBashar al-AssadSyriaWith the United States edging closer to a possible military strike on Syria, President Barack Obama on Saturday ramped up efforts to convince skeptical American lawmakers and wary international partners of the need to act.Obama’s top national security aides planned to hold the first of two days of weekend briefings for Congress. And the president and top aides were expected to continue consultations with foreign allies.Senate Republicans and Democrats were to get separate briefings on Saturday. House members of both parties received an invitation to attend a members-only classified briefing at 2 p.m. ET Sunday.It was not clear what the weekend sessions meant for the timing of a possible attack. Obama has signaled that he does not think he needs explicit congressional authorization to make war on Bashar Assad’s regime — but it seemed somewhat unlikely that the president would pull the trigger before the Sunday briefing.National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral James Winnefeld, were to update Senators via an unclassified conference call „this afternoon,” a senior administration official said.The calls aimed “to continue the Administration’s consultations regarding the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons in Syria on August 21,” the official told reporters by email.House members were to get briefed on Sunday, according to a message from Republican House Speaker John Boehner.“Please note, that if your Member is unable to participate that this will be one of many classified briefings. However, given the numerous requests made, the Speaker wanted Members to have an opportunity this weekend,” according to the message.Boehner also invited representatives to review the Obama Administration’s classified intelligence finding that the Assad regime was behind an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack.Lawmakers were required to review the document in person in the offices of the House Intelligence Committee.The briefings come after administration officials briefed House Armed Services Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee members on Friday.Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office announced the Senate GOP briefing late Friday, saying it was being held at his request.“Sen. McConnell believes it’s important for the whole Conference to have the opportunity to communicate directly with the administration on this important issue,” spokesman Don Stewart said in a statement.The briefings came at a time when a growing chorus of lawmakers was insisting that Obama secure explicit congressional authorization for any military action against Assad’s regime in Damascus.The White House repeatedly has said it will “consult” with Congress, but has made it clear Obama does not think he needs the green light from lawmakers.The Republican Senate briefing was to occur at 1 p.m. Washington time. It was not immediately clear at what time Democrats were to get their briefing.
Syria conflict ‘baddies vs baddies’: AbbottView gallery 39 minutes ago PoliticsElectionsAustraliaSyria The conservative frontrunner to become Australia’s next prime minister came under fire Sunday after describing the conflict in Syria as „baddies versus baddies”, renewing criticism of his diplomatic credentials.Tony Abbott, currently on track to win Australia’s September 7 elections over centre-left Labor incumbent Kevin Rudd, described the conflict in Syria as a civil war „between two pretty unsavoury sides”.”It is not goodies versus baddies, it is baddies versus baddies and that is why it is very important that we don’t make a very difficult situation worse,” Abbott told ABC television Sunday morning.The remarks came as Australia prepared to assume the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council, and Abbott’s political opponents seized upon them as evidence he was not ready for the international stage.”Can you imagine him at the G20? ‘Barack, it’s baddies versus baddies’,” said Labor Senator Penny Wong.View gallery.”Australian PM Kevin Rudd speaks during a debate with opposition leader Tony Abbott in Sydney on Augu …”I’ve yet to see a leader of a federal political party wanting to be PM who would be this embarrassing when it comes to foreign policy.”The Labor campaign said it „speaks volumes about Mr Abbott’s foreign policy capacity” and „summed up in a sentence why he is not fit to represent Australia in any international forum”.”Having Mr Abbott represent Australia at the G20, the White House or the United Nations is akin to sending Milli Vanilli to perform at the Royal Albert Hall,” a campaign release said, referring to the 80s rap/pop group.Rudd, a Mandarin-speaking former diplomat and foreign minister who championed Australia gaining a place on the security council, questioned Abbott’s ability to handle complex international crises last week, describing him as „an exceptionally aggressive and negative politician”.”I really do question, having known Mr Abbott for a long, long time, if he really has the temperament for that sort of thing,” he said.”You’ve got to sit back, think calmly, reflect and then work through what the best decision is. And temperament, judgement and experience are quite important.”He doesn’t have a background in this field.”Opinion polls have consistently put Abbott ahead of Rudd but both sides are predicting a close finish heading into the final week of the campaign.Rudd is due to rally the party faithful at Labor’s major campaign event later Sunday.
Egypt accuses Hamas of arresting Egyptians in GazaView galleryA Hamas policeman (L) stands in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on the border with Egypt, on July 8, 2013, while Egyptian soldiers keep watch from the Egyptian side of the border. Egypt’s foreign ministry accused Gaza’s Hamas rulers on Saturday of raiding an Egyptian cultural centre in the Palestinian enclave and detaining several Egyptians. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)6 hours ago PoliticsSocietyEgypt Egypt’s foreign ministry accused Gaza’s Hamas rulers on Saturday of raiding an Egyptian cultural centre in the Palestinian enclave and detaining several Egyptians.”The foreign ministry strongly condemns and denounces this irresponsible act and demands their release,” it said of the Egyptians it claimed Hamas arrested on Saturday morning.Questioned about the incident, the Palestinian Islamist group said a security investigation was taking place into a Palestinian from Gaza who has Egyptian citizenship.”At this stage no decision to arrest him has been made,” Hamas spokesman Ehab al-Ghossein told AFP.Palestinian sources said the man in question, Adel Abdel Rahman El-Kahlout, is the head of Gaza’s Egyptian cultural centre.But the Hamas spokesman insisted Kahlout was „lying when he says that he is the head of the representation of the Egyptian people in Gaza”.A source close to the Egyptian embassy in Ramallah said Hamas security services had interrogated Kahlout about a statement circulating among Egyptians in Gaza in support of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt’s military chief.Hamas’s interior ministry said on Saturday evening that Kahlout had been released after questioning.Relations between Egypt and the Palestinian Islamist movement have sharply deteriorated since the military-led ouster on July 3 of president Mohamed Morsi.The deposed Islamist leader is now in detention, accused of colluding with Hamas in staging prison breaks and killing policemen during the 2011 uprising that overthrew former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.Egypt’s foreign ministry did not specify the number of Egyptians arrested in Gaza, which is under semi-blockade by Israel and Egypt.In its statement, it expressed it support for Palestinians, but said it would not „forgive” Hamas for arresting Egyptians.
British PM feeling the heat on Syria snubView gallery Robin Millard 7 hours ago PoliticsDavid CameronEd Miliband British Prime Minister David Cameron’s authority was being questioned Saturday following his stunning parliamentary defeat on action against the Syrian regime.Newspapers said his leadership of the Conservative Party had been shaken, with thirty rebels from his own side contributing to Thursday’s defeat in the House of Commons.In the most humiliating defeat of Cameron’s three years in power, lawmakers voted to reject his call for British involvement in military strikes aimed at punishing the Syrian regime for alleged chemical weapons use.US President Barack Obama now risks suffering the same fate, after he announced Saturday that he would ask Congress to authorise military action.In London, more than a thousand anti-war protesters gathered at Trafalgar Square to proclaim „victory” after lawmakers saw off Cameron’s hopes of joining US-led strikes against Syria.The British prime minister is considering his next moves as he tries to limit the fall-out from Thursday’s sorry episode.Several newspapers said Cameron would likely reshuffle his cabinet in a bid to boost his authority. Ten government members missed the key vote — including some who failed to return from holiday and two who did not hear the warning bell.The Daily Telegraph said at least five ministers faced the sack over what it called the „Syria shambles”.One unnamed minister was quoted in The Guardian as saying: „The veil has been ripped away and we know there are a number of Tory MPs who are willing to do serious damage to David Cameron”.A senior Conservative added: „It’s a bit like being present after a massive explosion. There is broken glass and dust everywhere and it will take time for the dust to settle.”The Independent said Cameron had failed in his reading of the public mood, while the debacle had exposed once more the rift in the Conservative Party between the government and restive backbenchers.A rump of Conservative MPs have never reconciled themselves to Cameron leading the centre-right party into coalition with the smaller, centrist Liberal Democrats.View gallery.”Protesters demonstrate against military intervention in Syria in central London on August 31, 2013. …Cameron is „humbled at home and weakened abroad”, The Independent said.The opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband did not emerge unscathed from the fall-out either.Cameron accommodated Miliband with a series of concessions to his motion, in a bid to send a strong message from Britain’s parliament on the use of chemical weapons — only to see Miliband change tack and lead every Labour MP who voted to reject the motion.The Daily Mail said Miliband had „repaid Mr Cameron’s straight-dealing with a display of wriggling political opportunism that should fill the nation with distaste”.It added: „Where Mr Cameron’s future is concerned, yes, he has been humbled. But the damage is far from terminal. Indeed, a little humility may yet make him a better and stronger prime minister, if it teaches him to listen.”The Sun said that while Cameron had made a „monumental blunder” in failing to shore up Conservative support, „the real villain is Ed Miliband”, who decided that „playing politics was more important than the lives of gassed children”.”By voting to rule out even the possibility of responding to a crime against humanity, the House of Commons shamed our great nation,” it added.MPs had forgotten the lesson of Britain’s 1930s appeasement of Nazi Germany, the top-selling tabloid said.Syrian President Bashar al-Assad „will see that our condemnations are meaningless. He now knows we will only ever shout at him”.Doctor Andrew Blick, a lecturer in politics and contemporary history at King’s College London university, said some Conservatives exploited a chance to rebel against Cameron.However, for many lawmakers, the shadow of parliament’s vote to back the 2003 invasion of Iraq loomed large.”For some people this is like a re-run of Iraq — only this time around they didn’t want to make the same mistake that was made last time,” he told AFP.
Painted donkeys arrive to St. Paul’s CathedralView gallery12 photos Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images August 30, 2013Artist painted donkey statues are displayed in the ‘Caravan’ exhibition on August 30, 2013 in London, England. The exhibition featuring 25 life-size painted donkeys comes from Egypt and is the work of Western and Egyptian artists, both Muslim and Christian, who were each asked to decorate a life-size fibreglass donkey sculpted by Egyptian artist Reda Abdel Rahman. (Getty)
Fearing US missiles, Syrians escape to LebanonView gallery Michel Moutot 12 hours ago PoliticsLebanonDamascus As UN inspectors crossed the border from Syria into Lebanon Saturday, they were followed out of the war-torn country by a continuous flow of families desperate to flee the threat of US strikes.Cars filled with weary-looking passengers, their open boots packed to the brim with bags and suitcases crossed the Masnaa border post in a constant — though not massive — exodus as a US intervention over a suspected gas attack appeared increasingly imminent.”I’m going to rent a house near Anjar (in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa valley) and we will wait for things to calm down,” said Abu Malek, a 31-year-old Syrian who works in an aluminium factory near the capital Damascus.Carrying a carton of supplies handed over by a Qatari NGO that welcomes Syrian refugees some 300 metres (yards) from the border post, he said people in his home country were „terrified”.”Those who can, leave. But many people can’t.”The threat of strikes on Syrian army targets in Damascus and surrounding areas has become an increasingly imminent reality as UN inspectors probing the alleged gas attack last week left the country at dawn on Saturday.US President Barack Obama said Friday that his administration was looking at the possibility of a „limited, narrow act” over the suspected attack that reportedly killed hundreds, which Washington blames on the regime.View gallery.”Vehicles undergo security checks as families cross Masnaa border post into Lebanon on Saturday. Cars …This threat comes on top of months and months of violence in a conflict that has seen more than 100,000 people die.Most of those crossing the border had the means and money to do so. Not so for Aicha, a 60-year-old woman wearing a black veil, her lower jaw almost toothless.Sitting in the shade with her daughter-in-law, she said she arrived on Friday to accompany her son who travelled on to Turkey to find work, and intended to return to Damascus if she could find transport.”I’m scared, we’re all scared of US strikes, but what can we do? We are dependent on God,” she sighed.”We are neutral in this war, we don’t understand anything about what is going on. We have lost our house and we are living with friends in another area.”Majida, her 33-year-old daughter-in-law, added that they would like to stay in Lebanon.”But we don’t have any money, we have nowhere to go. So we have to go back,” she said.View gallery.”A family in their car loaded with suitcases as they cross the Masnaa border post into Lebanon on Sat …For almost a year, the Qatari NGO Al Asmah, funded by rich families from the Arab state, has set up a centre in Masnaa to welcome Syrian refugees.Flashing their Syrian identity cards, refugees are able to get cartons of food and other useful items.”Over the past few days, since the US threats, the number of families that we see has doubled,” said director Omar Mohammed Koeis.”We now provide for 60 to 70 families a day.”In a nearby parking lot, Amer Abed, a 27-year-old unemployed man who came from a Damascus suburb, was emptying the contents of the overflowing boot of an old Mercedes car into a van.Weary women got out of the car, holding young, surprised-looking children in their arms.”I want these US strikes to happen,” he said to several foreign journalists.”You journalists, and the entire world, are watching our country go up in flames without doing anything. Hate has taken over our hearts.”I want these strikes because if Americans attack us and kill us once and for all, then maybe the Arabs will unite to defend us.”
Nelson Mandela Still Hospitalized Despite ReportsBy ROB NELSON | ABC News – 12 hours agoABC News – Nelson Mandela Still Hospitalized Despite Reports (ABC News) South Africa awoke this morning to the unexpected and ultimately false news that iconic leader Nelson Mandela had been discharged from the hospital in Pretoria and returned to his home in a wealthy suburb of Johannesburg. The news stunned the country and threw the international media into a frenzy, with a small army of media outlets scrambling to his home to confirm the news and perhaps catch a glimpse of the ailing 95-year-old Mandela, who has been hospitalized since June 8 for a lung infection. However, the early morning reports turned out to be a false alarm and prompted South Africa President Jacob Zuma to issue a statement Saturday, denying the media reports and assuring the public Mandela is still hospitalized and responding well to treatment. Nelson Mandela Through the Years: See the Photos A Mandela relative had apparently misunderstood her communication with one of Mandela’s doctors and erroneously believed he had been released. The relative informed other family members, who, in turn, relayed the faulty information to the media. In his Saturday statement, Zuma reiterated that Mandela’s condition sometimes becomes unstable but that he remains resilient and is being made comfortable. Read: Nelson Mandela’s Illness Puts Spotlight on Palliative Care There is still lingering confusion about when or if Mandela will be released, but his family has said in recent months he would prefer to die at home rather than in the hospital. Because of the false news reports and increased speculation about a possible release, activity buzzed outside Mandela’s hospital in Pretoria, where international media have been camped out since he was admitted 85 days ago. Several media outlets are now lined up outside of Mandela’s home in Johannesburg, where a few family members were spotted Saturday but nothing that suggested his arrival there is imminent. Mandela: Father of Modern South Africa –Mandela, who turned 95 in July, remains an almost mythical figure in South Africa. Read: South Africa Celebrates Nelson Mandela’s 95th Birthday After his anti-apartheid efforts landed him in jail for 27 years, he was released in February 1990 and four years later was elected the country’s first black president and the first one elected by a full, non-racial democracy after the demise of apartheid. He is widely considered the father of modern South Africa and one of the great towering political figures of the 20th century. Nelson Mandela Turns 95: See the Photos The admiration for Mandela is clear on the gates outside the hospital, which for several weeks have been adorned with posters, pictures and flowers in his honor. The public fanfare that ensued shortly after Mandela went into the hospital earlier this summer has largely faded, with the country now in the midst of a long goodbye for its iconic leader.
Yemen PM escapes unhurt after gunmen shoot at motorcade: aideBy Mohammed Ghobari | Reuters – 5 hours ago By Mohammed Ghobari SANAA (Reuters) – Unidentified assailants opened fire on the motorcade of Yemen’s prime minister on Saturday, an aide said, in an apparent assassination attempt that underscored the volatility of the U.S.-allied Arab country.Ali al-Sarari, an adviser to Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa, said no one was hurt in the attack which happened in the evening in Sanaa while the premier was returning home from his office.No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. But Yemen is home to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), considered one of the most aggressive branches of the global militant organization, which has previously targeted top officials.”We strongly condemn this brazen assassination attempt and remain committed to supporting Yemen as it pursues meaningful and peaceful reform through its ongoing transition process,” a U.S. State Department official said in Washington.President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi said last week that the AQAP’s leader had vowed in an intercepted phone call to carry out an attack that would „change the face of history”, and that this was what had led to the temporary closure of many U.S. and other Western embassies in the Middle East, Africa and Asia earlier in August.Sarari said Basindwa’s guards identified the license plates of the car used in the attack and security forces were trying to track it down after the assailants fled the scene.Basindwa was chosen to head a government of national unity in 2011 after long-serving President Ali Abdullah Saleh quit under a Gulf-brokered power transfer deal that propelled his deputy, Hadi, to power.The U.S. government supports Yemeni forces with funds and logistical support, and has regularly used drones to hunt down al Qaeda militants.A local Yemeni source said on Friday that four suspected militants were killed in a U.S. drone strike in the central al-Bayda province.But the Interior Ministry said on Saturday that five local al Qaeda leaders, all from the same extended family, died in an air strike in al-Bayda province.It identified them as Qa’ed al-Dahab, Ali Jalloud al-Dahab, al-Hamdani al-Arbaji al-Dahab, Deifallah Ahmed Deifallah al-Dahab and Mohammed al-Doukhi al-Dahab.Local sources identified Qa’ed al-Dahab as the commander of an al Qaeda-linked group in al-Bayda and said he had previously escaped at least two drone strikes.Apart from the al Qaeda threat, Yemen is grappling with a host of challenges as it tries to restore state control over the country after months of turmoil in 2011 that saw Saleh step down.(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari; Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed in Washington; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Alison Williams and Sandra Maler)
By Pete Jones GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) – Fighting erupted on Saturday between eastern Congolese rebels and the army, which said it would push on with an offensive to recapture all territory controlled by insurgents despite their call for a ceasefire.Democratic Republic of Congo’s army, backed by a new U.N. brigade with an unprecedented mandate to launch attacks, has forced M23 rebels to retreat from positions they have held for months overlooking the eastern city of Goma.Some shells fired during recent fighting have landed in neighboring Rwanda, threatening to pull the small but militarily powerful country openly into the conflict.Both Congo’s army and rebels have accused the other of firing the missiles. U.N. experts and Congo’s government says Rwanda is already backing the rebels but Kigali denies this.Both sides said fighting erupted several kilometers (miles) north of Kibati, hilltop positions seized from rebels on Friday – the latest in nearly two decades of unrest fuelled by ethnicity, local politics and competition over land and mineral wealth.” are criminals and we are obliged to pursue them. We want to recapture all of the territory they currently occupy and restore the authority of the army and state,” said Congolese army spokesman Lt Colonel Olivier Hamuli.In a statement sent to journalists, M23 confirmed the resumption of fighting and complained it came despite a pullback by its troops and an offer of a ceasefire.RWANDAN ARMOUR–U.N. forces in North Kivu province, where the fighting is taking place, said they were not involved in the latest clashes.The army’s U.N.-backed advance this week is the most significant victory government troops have recorded during this latest 18-month rebellion, whose leaders complain the Kinshasa government failed to honor the terms of a deal to end an earlier, similar uprising.M23 seized Goma last November after insurgents overran the army and marched past U.N. peacekeepers. The rebels withdrew under intense international pressure and started peace talks with the government but these have stalled.The failure of U.N. peacekeepers to protect Goma led to the creation of an „Intervention Brigade” with a robust mandate to neutralize rebels. This force was spurred into action last week by the shelling of Goma and nearby Gisenyi, in Rwanda, that killed several civilians.The United Nations has blamed the rebels for the shelling but M23 and Rwanda have said Congo’s army was responsible. Kigali has accused Kinshasa of provocation and has not ruled out dispatching troops to Congo to protect its territory.Rwandan media published photos of armor being sent towards Rwanda’s northern border with Congo this week. Congo’s government and U.N. peacekeepers have said there are already signs of Rwandan infiltration.Diplomats say world leaders are applying pressure on Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame not to intervene.Rwanda and Congo have fought two wars in the last two decades, with Kigali arguing it had to send troops to Congo to hunt down extremist Hutu rebels who fled to Congo after the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.(Writing by David Lewis; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
France to await US congressional decision on SyriaView galleryPresident Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, talks about the crisis in Syria to media gathered in the Rose Garden of the White House Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, in Washington. Delaying what had loomed as an imminent strike on Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons, Obama announced Saturday that he wanted to put the matter before Congress first. He said, „I know that the country will be stronger if we take this course and our actions will be even more effective.” His remarks were televised live in the United States as well as on Syrian state television with translation. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)JAMEY KEATEN 4 hours ago PoliticsForeign PolicyBarack ObamaBashar al-AssadSyriaFranceDavid CameronUnited States PARIS (AP) — Mirroring U.S. policy, France will wait for its parliament to consider possible military action against Syria before President Francois Hollande decides whether to launch strikes, his office said Saturday.Paris hewed a close line to Washington while asserting its independence after President Barack Obama said Saturday he believes the United States should respond with force over a suspected chemical weapons attack by Bashar Assad’s regime, but decided to put the issue before the U.S. Congress first.France, under Hollande’s Socialists, has been the most vocal and visible country to show willingness to join the United States in military action against Syria following an alleged chemical weapons attack in rebel-held or contested areas last week. The U.S. claims the attack killed 1,429 people — including more than 400 children — marking a grave and intolerable escalation in Syria’s two-year civil war that has left 100,000 dead.Before his speech about Syria outside the White House, Obama explained his decision to Hollande in a phone call, said an official in the French president’s office. Hollande noted that he had already decided to convene France’s parliament on Wednesday to take up a debate about Syria.The two presidents „reaffirmed their joint willingness to act,” and have an „absolute and shared conviction” that Assad’s regime was behind the chemical weapons attack, the official said on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to be publicly named under presidential policy.Unlike in Britain, Hollande does not need the permission of parliament to order France to intervene militarily. Britain’s parliament on Thursday rejected efforts by Prime Minister David Cameron to have British forces possibly take part in military action against Syria.In his speech, Obama said the U.N. Security Council „has been completely paralyzed and unwilling to hold Assad accountable. As a consequence, many people have advised against taking this decision to Congress, and undoubtedly, they were impacted by what we saw happen in the United Kingdom this week when the Parliament of our closest ally failed to pass a resolution with a similar goal, even as the prime minister supported taking action.”After Obama’s speech, Cameron tweeted: „I understand and support Barack Obama’s position on #Syria.”French officials said France is ready to strike once Hollande gives the order, though he has said he hasn’t yet made a decision. The officials haven’t publicly specified how the French military posture has changed in preparation for a Syria action, though analysts say that France’s most likely contribution would involve firing cruise missiles on targets in Syria.At the U.N. Security Council, Russia and China have repeatedly blocked efforts by fellow permanent members Britain, France and the United States to pass tough resolutions against Assad’s regime.Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said Cairo rejects military intervention in Syria except under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, whereby it is proven that the country has become a danger to international peace and security. Fahmy also asked that any decision be put off until the report of the U.N. investigators regarding the use of chemical weapons comes out.Speaking on MBC Egypt TV, in comments relayed by the state-run news agency MENA, Fahmy said Obama was seeking Congress’ approval to „immunize” himself politically in the wake of controversial U.S. military action in Iraq and Afghanistan.Jordan, where several hundred U.S. military personnel, as well as jet fighters and anti-missile batteries are deployed to bolster the security of the close U.S. ally, said diplomatic efforts must be exhausted before Washington opts for the military option.”Jordan supports a diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis,” Information Minister Mohammad Momani told The Associated Press. Any such solution must take into consideration the „people’s unity and territorial integrity,” he said.___Associated Press correspondents Sylvie Corbet in Paris, Sylvia Hui in London, Sarah El Deeb in Cairo, and Jamal Halaby in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.
Battle royal looms as Obama turns to Congress on SyriaView gallery Michael Mathes 1 hour ago PoliticsBarack ObamaSyria War-weary US lawmakers earned a stunning victory as President Barack Obama bowed to their demand that he seek congressional approval for any military action against Syria.The question now is, will members of the US House and Senate endorse his push for action, or hand the president a bitter defeat despite his declaration that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against its own people?Obama’s rare announcement — many presidents including Obama have launched military action without congressional approval in recent decades — sets up one of the most hotly-anticipated debates of the year when Congress returns from recess on September 9.The deliberation kicks off in the coming week, with Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Robert Menendez, who calls military intervention against Assad’s regime „justified,” scheduling a Syria hearing for Tuesday, six days before Congress resumes its official business.Obama may feel confident of winning any vote put before the Democrat-controlled Senate, which also includes a number of Republicans who have voiced support for military action.However his chances of winning support from the House of Representatives, where Republicans hold the balance of power, are less certain. The chamber is home to a hard core of conservatives who have obstructed Obama’s agenda at every turn.The jockeying began earlier this week, when some 170 lawmakers from both parties signed letters calling on Obama to seek a congressional green light before taking action in the war-ravaged Middle Eastern state, where President Bashar al-Assad is clinging to power after more than two years of bloody civil war.Now that Obama is turning to Capitol Hill, the lawmakers themselves will be in the spotlight, and Republican Senator Bob Corker — who supports a „surgical” strike against Syria — hinted at the tough time the president will have in drumming up sufficient support. contributed to this report.Corker told CNN that Obama should use „every ounce of political capital that he has to sell this.”View gallery.”Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) leaves the Senate chamber at the US Capitol August 1, 2013 …”I think it is problematic and it could be problematic in both bodies,” he said of the authorization vote.”Today, I do not think the country is there, and it is very important for the president to lay out why he wishes to do this and, candidly to us privately, how he wishes to do this.”Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the chamber „will engage in this critical debate right away,” then vote on a measure no later than the week of September 9.Obama on Saturday sent a draft resolution to Congress that authorizes the use of force.It does not mention a timeframe, but pinpoints the use of force „to prevent or deter the use or proliferation” of any weapons of mass destruction, and to „protect the United States and its allies and partners against the threat posed by such weapons.”Such language appears aimed at assuaging lawmakers concerned that intervention might drag the US into yet another military quagmire.House Speaker John Boehner has discussed the Syria options with Obama but stressed that the president now has to „make his case to Congress and the American people.”He and the rest of House Republican leadership released a statement approving of Obama’s decision „in response to serious, substantive questions being raised.”Many lawmakers have expressed skepticism about a military strike, including number two Senate Democrat Dick Durbin.View gallery.”US Senator John McCain answers questions from students in Tokyo on August 21, 2013. McCain and Senat …He sounded a note of caution Saturday, recalling how the „cost of lives and treasure to our country over the last 12 years of war has been overwhelming.”If we can do something to discourage Assad and others like him from using chemical weapons without engaging in a war and without making a long-term military commitment of the United States, I’m open to that debate.”Congress has its clear supporters for military action on both sides of the aisle.”As far as I’m concerned, we should strike in Syria today,” Democratic Senator Bill Nelson said in a terse statement.”The use of chemical weapons was inhumane, and those responsible should be forced to suffer the consequences.”But Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who have advocated intervention for the past year, threw a spanner in the works.”We can not in good conscience support isolated military strikes in Syria that are not part of an overall strategy that can change the momentum on the battlefield, achieve the president’s stated goal of Assad’s removal from power, and bring an end to this conflict,” they said.One congressman, Republican Peter King, went so far as to say Obama was „abdicating his responsibility as commander-in-chief” by turning to Congress for permission to attack.”The president doesn’t need 535 members of Congress to enforce his own red line,” King said.
Egypt security forces arrest top Sinai militantView gallery TONY G. GABRIEL 4 hours ago Politics CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian security forces said they arrested Saturday a top wanted militant in the Sinai Peninsula, while authorities reported a failed attempt to disrupt traffic on the strategic Suez Canal but gave scant detail.Canal authority chairman Mohab Mamish said a „terrorist element” had tried to disrupt navigation in the waterway by targeting a Panama-flagged ship. In comments carried by official news agency MENA, he said the attempt was „completely unsuccessful” and the container carrier unharmed. He did not say how the ship was targeted.Authorities have taken extra security measures to safeguard the waterway as lawlessness and violence gripped Sinai, where militants and smugglers rove relatively freely and target security forces and posts.Mamish said military troops dealt „firmly” with the situation, and that navigation was largely uninterrupted. Earlier Saturday, residents of Port Said, a city that lies along the waterway, said they heard a loud bang. It was not immediately possible to reach witnesses later Saturday.Egyptian authorities have heightened their security arrangements in recent weeks, following the military coup that ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi on July 3.View gallery.”A supporter of Egypt’s ousted President Mohammed Morsi, holds a national flag as he stands next to b …They accuse opponents of the coup of trying to destabilize the country, and have waged a security crackdown against members of the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, and other allies, arresting hundreds.Pro-military media and state TV have frequently described the crackdown on Morsi supporters as a „fight against terrorism.”Morsi supporters have held near-daily protests since the coup but deny they are violent. After a bloody dispersal of their major sit-ins earlier this month, however, some retaliated by attacking police stations, government buildings and churches.In Sinai, violence has only worsened since Morsi’s overthrow.The militant arrested there Saturday is suspected of leading an al-Qaida-linked group in an ambush where 25 off-duty policemen were lined up and shot last week, security officials said. The attack was one of the area’s worst militant strikes on security forces.View gallery.”