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Sep 9, 2013 8:03 PM

Syria Makes Diplomatic Offer to Avoid US Airstrikes

WASHINGTON (NBC News) - Syria today offered to destroy its chemical weapons to avoid U.S. airstrikes.

Syria's dictator, Bashir Assad, is joining the effort to lobby the U.S. House and Senate that will vote soon on the military strikes promised by President Obama.

On Tuesday, Assad said Syria would destroy its chemical weapons.

If this is a breakthrough and Syria is backing down, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says it's because of the threat of U.S. military action.

As Congress returned to Washington to vote on Syria, lawmakers are convinced chemical weapons were used.

"These poisons kill the kids first" said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Outside, demonstrators pushed for U.S. air strikes while others at the White House were opposed.

Most lawmakers however say they are still undecided.

"Can you have a limited strike that doesn't have unlimited consequences or consequences that make things worse no better?" asked democratic Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont.

To argue the answer is yes, President Obama addresses the nation Tuesday.

"I think the president has done an awful job" said republican Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan.

The chair of the House Intelligence Committee supports U.S. strikes but only if the U.S. aim is to bring down Bashar al Assad, and secure his chemical weapons.

"If this is just about firing missiles to punish Assad and then that's it, think we make a serious mistake," Congressman Rogers said.

Secretary of State Kerry confirmed that any military action would be targeted and short term.

"That is exactly what we're talking about doing: unbelievably small limited kind of effort," Kerry said.

To avert U.S. strikes, Russia suggested outside monitoring of Syria's chemical weapons and Syria offered to destroy them.

The White House is highly skeptical.

"Recent statements by Assad not even acknowledging that he has chemical weapons, doesn't give you a lot of confidence," said Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken.

On CBS, Assad himself warned that if there are U.S. strikes, he will let loose what he called everything, in retaliation.

But Assad said he's counting on Congress and the American people to stop U.S. strikes.

The Senate takes its first vote Wednesday which is test of how well President Obama makes his case Tuesday night.


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