CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pulled back the reins Tuesday on pushing for military action against Syria, saying international diplomatic efforts should be given a chance to try to avert a military strike by the United States.
“If there is a realistic chance to secure Syria’s chemical weapons and prevent further atrocities by the Assad regime, we should not turn our backs on that chance,” said Reid, who delayed a vote on a congressional resolution authorizing President Barack Obama to use force.
Reid, D-Nev., said the debate is too important “to be rushed through the Senate or given short shrift.”
But he said the clock cannot run indefinitely for a solution to be plausible, and said the regime of Bashar Assad “must quickly prove that their offer is real and not merely a ploy to delay military action indefinitely.”
Meanwhile, Nevada’s Republican Sen. Dean Heller said Tuesday he would oppose military action.
“Any strategic attack has the potential to become an act of war and should be treated as such,” he said. “Before I vote to put members of Nevada’s families in harm’s way, a full justification for war must be provided.
“After extensive discussions with the White House and those concerned about the constitutionality of military intervention, I do not believe a strategic attack on Syria is in the best interest of the United States at this time,” Heller said.
Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., said the administration’s foreign policy strategy was “unnerving and embarrassing.” He characterized statements made by the president and Secretary of State John Kerry as “bipolar gaffes” that underscore a U.S. leadership vacuum being filled by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Russia on Monday proposed Syria turn over its chemical weapons to avert a Western missile strike, but has rejected U.S. and French demands for a binding U.N. Security Council resolution that includes severe consequences if conditions are not met.
The president Tuesday said he supports a plan for U.N. Security Council talks aimed at securing Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles, but said airstrikes should remain on the table if diplomatic efforts fail.
Reid argued the possible breakthrough in international talks was spurred by the threat of military retaliation and the United States should not retreat from that position.
International developments over Syria were unfolding and changing rapidly Tuesday.
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