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Friday, September 6 

03:48 GMT: US President Barack Obama instructed the Pentagon to expand the list of potential Syria targets as a reaction to new intelligence that Syrian President Bashar Assad has been moving troops and chemical weapons equipment, military officials told the The New York Times. This means that the original list of at least 50 major sites will be further expanded.
03:20 GMT: The US State Department responded to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s remarks that US Secretary of State John Kerry “lied” about the influence of Al-Qaeda in Syria, saying that it is“preposterous” and a mischaracterization of what America’s top diplomat actually said. 
Kerry is “not losing sleep after such a preposterous comment that was based on an inaccurate quote and was completely mischaracterized,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington.
Putin made his remarks on Wednesday, reportedly referring to the Secretary of State’s testimony before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee a day earlier, where Kerry said that Al-Qaeda’s presence within the Syrian opposition has not been increasing.
02:00 GMT: US Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean are “fully ready” to launch cruise missiles into Syria as part of a US military campaign that would not involve “extraordinary” monetary costs, a top admiral said Thursday.
Greenert, a chief naval operations officer who focuses on preparedness of Navy forces, also seemed to confirm the rough estimate made by US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, when he told Congress that a US campaign in Syria would likely cost"tens of millions" of dollars.
"The numbers are nagging but they're not extraordinary at this point," Greenert said at an event held by the conservative think-tank American Enterprise Institute, though defense budget analysts say Hagel's figure is a low estimate. 

Thursday, September 5

23:50 GMT: Pope Francis called on world leaders attending the G20 summit in Russia to seek peace in Syria through diplomatic means, laying aside the “futile pursuit” of a military solution.
In a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is hosting the G20 summit, Francis said that lopsided global interests have blocked a diplomatic course in the Syrian conflict and have led to the“senseless massacre” of innocent people.

“To the leaders present, to each and every one, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution,”
 Francis wrote.
Pope Francis.(Reuters / Tony Gentile)
Pope Francis.(Reuters / Tony Gentile)

21:00 GMT: US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said Thursday there is “no viable path forward” in the UN Security council on Syria, accusing Russian leaders of holding the council hostage to protect President Bashar al-Assad’s government. 
I was present in the meeting where the UK laid down the resolution, and everything in that meeting, in word and body language, suggests that that resolution has no prospect of being adopted, by Russia in particular,” Power said. “In the wake of the flagrant shattering of the international norm against chemical weapons use, Russia continues to hold the council hostage and shirk its responsibilities, including as a party to the chemical weapons convention.”
20:45 GMT: President Obama has forgone a trip to California, instead remaining in Washington, “to work on the Syrian resolution before Congress,” the White House has announced. Obama was scheduled to speak at the AFL-CIO’s quadrennial convention in Los Angeles and attend a party fundraiser which has been postponed. 
The president departed Washington Tuesday night for a trip to Sweden before heading to the G20 summit in Russia. Obama will return to the US on Friday. Both chambers of Congress are scheduled to debate US military action in Syria on Monday.
20:24 GMT: US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he is “guardedly optimistic” that the Senate will vote to authorize limited missile strikes against Syria, a Democratic aide said on Thursday, as cited by Reuters. The aide said the Senate will likely vote on President Obama’s use-of-force resolution on Wednesday, in an attempt to nullify an expected entanglement with Republicans. 
Reid did not attend the meeting with Obama earlier this week in which Democrat and Republican leaders were briefed on the details of the Syrian conflict. Reid told reporters that he has been in daily contact with the president and “has all the information he needs.”
17:07 GMT: The UK has fresh evidence of use of chemical weapons in the Syrian capital, Damascus, British prime minister, David Cameron, told the BBC.

He said evidence of the Bashar Assad regime's use of chemical weapons was “growing all the time” and UK scientists were investigating the alleged attacks on 21 August.

"We have just been looking at some samples taken from Damascus in the Porton Down laboratory in Britain which further shows the use of chemical weapons in that Damascus suburb," Cameron said.

The PM also denied claims he has “no hand to play” over Syria after losing a vote on UK military action in Syria, saying that Britain would lead calls for more action on aid for refugees and push for fresh peace talks.

16:18 GMT:
 Moscow is puzzled by the Pentagon’s claims that Russia has been shipping chemical weapons or the means to develop them to the Syrian government of Bashar Assad, the head of the Kremlin’s administration, Sergey Ivanov, said.
 
“I’ve heard this statement, spoken in diplomatic language, I was very surprised and even shocked by it,”Ivanov is cited as saying by the ITAR-TASS news agency.

The official added that no matter how Congress votes on the use of force against Syria, the decision by the US lawmaker still won’t be “legitimate”.

Ivanov also said that Russia has boosted its naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea in order to evacuate Russian citizens from Syria in case of an attack.

15:22 GMT:
 Leaders of the BRICS countries expressed their concerns on Thursday that military action against Syria could damage the world economy, a spokesman for the Russian president said.
“It was noted within the BRICS dialogue that among factors that could negatively affect the global economic situation are the consequences of the eventual foreign intervention into Syrian affairs. Such consequences can have an extremely negative effect on global economy,” the spokesman said.
The BRICS association includes the emerging economies of Russia, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa. 
15:15 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is to hold talks with his Syrian counterpart Walid al-Moualem on September 9 in Moscow, according to Russian Foreign Ministry. 
“In accordance with an agreement reached, Moscow will host talks between Russia’s Foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Syrian Arab Republic, Walid al-Moualem,” the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement on its website.
The talks will focus on the comprehensive review of all aspects of the current conflict in Syria, according to the statement. 
“In Moscow, we remain convinced of the need for a speedy end to the violence and suffering of the civilian population in Syria and the path of a political settlement without external military intervention avoiding the UN Security Council,” the ministry's statement said. 
14:40 GMT: Russia is not blocking the work of the UN Security Council, but “calls for all its partners for objective assessment of the situation” concerning Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at the G20 briefing.
“Russia is attempting to call on its partners, including partners in Washington, for an objective assessment of the situation, without taking decisions before the official verdict of the UN experts working in Syria,”Peskov said.
Only after the UN experts announce their legitimate conclusion on if the chemical weapons were indeed used in Syria, “then it is necessary to sort out who was behind their use,” Peskov stressed.
“We cannot accept the evidence that, in our view, does not represent any evidence, that is far from being convincing,” Putin’s spokesman said. 
13:33 GMT: Heavy clashes between Syrian government forces and militants of the Al-Qaida affiliated group, Jabhat al-Nusra (Al-Nusra Front), have been going on in the mountains surrounding the UNESCO-listed Christian village in western Syria after the insurgents attacked and held it overnight, AP reports, citing the UK-based Observatory for Human Rights.
Militants reportedly left the village of Maaloula early on Thursday, with locals saying they saw them patrolling the streets on foot and in vehicles at night, as well as surrounding the village church and mosque. According to AP speaking with witnesses over the phone, the villagers fear the rebels will return. 
12:34 GMT: Iran will support Syria “to the end” in the face of a possible US-led military strike, Iran’s elite Quds Force unit commander Qassem Soleimani has said.
“The aim of the United States is not to protect human rights ... but to destroy the front of resistance [against Israel],” Soleimani was quoted as saying by AFP citing local media.
“We will support Syria to the end,” he added in a speech to the Iranian Assembly of Experts, without elaborating.
However, Iran’s Defense Minister, Hossein Dehqan, ruled out sending troops or weapons to Syria.
“The Syrians do not need us to provide them with weapons because they have a defensive anti-aircraft system themselves,” Dehqan was quoted as saying.
12:20 GMT: The UN inspectors will not reveal the preliminary results of the probe into alleged chemical weapons use in Syria on August 21 near Damascus until the probe is completed, Martin Nesirky, a spokesman for UN Secretary General, has said.
“There will be no disclosure of the preliminary findings. There will only be final results after all the samples are analyzed,” Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman was quoted as saying by Interfax.
European Council President Herman van Rompuy said earlier on Thursday he expected the UN Secretary General to share the tentative findings of the UN chemical weapons inspectors on the sidelines of the G20 summit.
11:48 GMT: The international community should focus on a political solution for the Syrian crisis, said the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso.
“The European Union is certain that the efforts should be aimed at a political settlement,” Barroso told reporters at the G20 briefing. 
11:39 GMT: Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, slammed the US for using the alleged chemical weapons use as a “pretext” for intervention in Syria.
“In the case of Syria, the chemical attack is a pretext... The Americans try to play with words and pretend that they’ve become involved in this case for humanitarian aims,” Khamenei said, at a meeting of the Iranian Assembly of Experts.
Khamenei then warned the US would “suffer loss” in Syria, should they launch a military strike.
“I believe the Americans are making mistakes in Syria and they have felt the impact and will certainly suffer loss,” he said. 
11:09 GMT: Seventy percent of Germans are against military intervention in Syria. However, 65 percent consider it a possibility, according to a survey ordered by the ZDF TV channel.
10:15 GMT: UN special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, will push for an international conference to find a political solution to the conflict in Syria during the G20 summit.
"While the world is focused on concerns about the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria we must push even harder for the International Conference on Syria to take place in Geneva," said Brahimi in a statement.
05:12 GMT: Russia has sent an official request to meet the US lawmakers with the aim of lobbying them on Syria. It’s after earlier speculations that Russia will send a delegation to Washington, DC.
02:52 GMT: While calling for reconciliation and denying his government used chemical weapons, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad told the Wall Street Journal if the US attacks Syria, Damascus would strike back not only at Israel, but also neighbors Jordan and Turkey if they participate in hostilities.
"Once the war starts nobody can control what will happen," he said. "We believe that any attack against Syria will definitely result in chaos in the entire region if not beyond."
He also said US strikes would strengthen rebel groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda rather than the moderate opposition forces the US has supported.
02:41 GMT: The Vatican will host a day of fasting and a four-hour prayer vigil Saturday in St. Peter’s Square in opposition to US military strikes in Syria, the AP reported. The Vatican has invited bishops’ conferences the world over to host local version of the vigil.
In recent speeches, tweets and remarks, Pope Francis has called for a negotiated settlement to the Syrian conflict while condemning use of chemical weapons. “War never again! Never again war!” he tweeted earlier this week.

Missile cruiser “Moskva” (RIA Novosti / Vitaliy Ankov)


Thursday, September 5

05:12 GMT: Russia has sent an official request to meet the US lawmakers with the aim of lobbying them on Syria. It’s after earlier speculations that Russia will send a delegation to Washington, DC.
02:52 GMT: While calling for reconciliation and denying his government used chemical weapons, Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Mekdad told the Wall Street Journal if the US attacks Syria, Damascus would strike back not only at Israel, but also neighbors Jordan and Turkey if they participate in hostilities.
"Once the war starts nobody can control what will happen," he said. "We believe that any attack against Syria will definitely result in chaos in the entire region if not beyond."
He also said US strikes would strengthen rebel groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda rather than the moderate opposition forces the US has supported. 
02:41 GMT: The Vatican will host a day of fasting and a four-hour prayer vigil Saturday in St. Peter’s Square in opposition to US military strikes in Syria, the AP reported. The Vatican has invited bishops’ conferences the world over to host local version of the vigil. 
In recent speeches, tweets and remarks, Pope Francis has called for a negotiated settlement to the Syrian conflict while condemning use of chemical weapons. “War never again! Never again war!” he tweeted earlier this week. 


Wednesday, September 4

23:58 GMT: Russian lawmakers have announced plans to meet with US congressional leaders to discuss Syria, according to CNN. Previous reports speculated that Russia would send a delegation to Washington but it is not clear whether they will arrive before Monday, when the Senate and House of Representatives are scheduled to debate a bill authorizing military force in Syria. 
House Speaker John Boehner, however, has already declined the invitation, according to Boehner spokesman Michael Steel, who did not provide a reason. 
At this particular point, my understanding has been that relations between members of Congress and the Russian parliament have been very sour,” Dick Lugar, the former head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told CNN. “I don’t think a delegation from Russia will make any difference in terms of congressional votes. But at the same time there may be the possibility that dialogue could lead to other positive things.”
23:35 GMT: The Pentagon has issued a clarification to US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s assertion Wednesday that Russia had supplied chemical weapons to Syria.

During the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on potential use of force against Syria, Hagel alluded to Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons. When asked where they came from, Hagel said,“Well, the Russians supply them. Others are supplying them with those chemical weapons. They make some themselves.”

Pentagon spokesman George Little explained in a statement Hagel was referring to the “well-known conventional arms relationship between Syria and Russia.”

The full statement from Little:

“In a response to a member of Congress, Secretary Hagel was referring to the well-known conventional arms relationship between Syria and Russia. The Syrian regime has a decades-old largely indigenous chemical weapons program. Currently, Russia provides the Syrian regime a wide variety of military equipment and support, some of which can be modified or otherwise used to support the chemical weapons program. We have publicly and privately expressed our concern over the destabilizing impact on the Syrian conflict and the wider region of continued military shipments to the Assad regime.”
22:00 GMT: The White House praised the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for passing an authorization of military force against Syria hours after questioning top administration officials on potential strikes.

"We commend the Senate for moving swiftly and for working across party lines on behalf of our national security," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

The resolution now goes to the full Senate for debate. The bill needs 60 votes to ultimately pass. 
21:53 GMT: Former Syrian Defense Minister Ali Habib has not fled the country, state television reported Wednesday. 
"There is no truth to what the media has reported on the travel of former defence minister Ali Habib Mahmoud outside of Syria and he is still in his home," Syrian state television quoted an official source as saying.
A top member of the opposition Syrian National Coalition had previously told Reuters Habib had defected to Turkey.
21:43 GMT: Probes from Khan al-Assal show chemicals used in the March 19 attack did not belong to standard Syrian army ammunition, and that the shell carrying the substance was similar to those made by a rebel fighter group, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated
A statement released by the ministry on Wednesday particularly drew attention to the “massive stove-piping of various information aimed at placing the responsibility for the alleged chemical weapons use in Syria on Damascus, even though the results of the UN investigation have not yet been revealed.”
By such means “the way is being paved for military action” against Damascus, the ministry pointed out. 
But the samples taken at the site of the March 19 attack and analyzed by Russian experts indicate that a projectile carrying the deadly nerve agent sarin was most likely fired at Khan al-Assal by the rebels, the ministry statement suggests, outlining the 100-page report handed over to the UN by Russia. 
21:23 GMT: US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel insisted that any military strike on Syria for use of chemical weapons would significantly reduce President Bashar Assad's military might. 
"The president has said ... this would not be a pin prick. Those were his words. This would be a significant strike that would in fact degrade his capability," Hagel said during a hearing in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which will consider authorizing use of military force in the coming days.
Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry agreed that “likelihood is very high” Assad would use chemical weapons again should the US not use force. 
Hagel added during the hearing that a limited military strike campaign in Syria would likely cost “tens of millions” of dollars. 
"We have looked at the different costs, depending on the different options," Hagel said. "It would be in the tens of millions of dollars, that kind of range."
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (Alex Wong / Getty Images / AFP)
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel (Alex Wong / Getty Images / AFP)

21:00 GMT: During Wednesday afternoon’s hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel suggested that the Assad regime received some of their alleged chemical weapons arsenal from Russia. 
There’s no secret that the Assad regime has had chemical weapons, significant stockpiles of chemical weapons,” Hagel said.
When asked by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-South Carolina) to elaborate, Hagel responded, "The Russians supply them, others are supplying them with those chemical weapons, they make some themselves.”
18:13 GMT: Rep. Brian Higgins (D-New York) questioned the United States’ potential involvement in the Syrian civil war by insisting that the US should concentrate on its domestic endeavors, not efforts abroad.
The American people are sick and tired of war,” Higgins told Secretary of State John Kerry. “It’s time to nation build — in America.”
18:07 GMT: Answering critique from Rep. Ted Deutsh (D-Florida) about America’s potential role in the Syrian civil war, Secretary of State told the committee, "The United States of America is not being the world’s policeman."
17:23 GMT: Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters that a meeting and potentially a vote could occur as early as 2 p.m. local time, or 1800 GMT, today.
16:48 GMT: According to Reuters, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to vote later today on the draft resolution presented on Tuesday which would authorize the use of military force in Syria
16:36 GMT: Secretary of State John Kerry is again the lead witness during a Congressional hearing in Washington, this time one hosted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
During Wednesday afternoon testimony, Kerry said that new evidence has surfaced only hours earlier linking Assad’s regime to the August 21 attack near Damascus that the White House says killed over 1,400 people.
Meanwhile, anti-war protesters with the group Code Pink assembled during the hearing seated behind Kerry. International television cameras captured the demonstrators with symbolic “blood” on their hands. 

During Tuesday’s hearing in the Senate, Code Pink co-founder Madea Benjamin was ejected from the facility during an outburst that occurred moments into the meeting.
14:58 GMT: Russian President Vladimir Putin criticized remarks made by the US Secretary of State John Kerry at the Congressional debate, saying Kerry “lied” by claiming there was no Al-Qaeda militants fighting in Syria and that the military strike against President Assad will not boost the terrorist network’s presence in the region.
“Well, he [Kerry] lies. And he knows that he lies. This is sad,” Putin remarked as he spoke to human rights activists on Wednesday, saying that the Al-Nusra Front terrorist organization, which pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda, has been at the forefront of the rebel groups fighting Assad’s forces, and that the US is well aware of that.
Speaking of Kerry’s confidence in that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons, Putin recalled former US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s rhetoric on the eve of American invasion in Iraq. It later turned out that all Powell’s arguments that Iraq had chemical weapons “did not hold water,” the Russian President stressed.
13:40 GMT: President Barack Obama said the credibility of the US Congress was on the line regarding the need to uphold a ban on chemical weapons in Syria.
"My credibility is not on the line. The international community's credibility is on the line," he told a news conference in Sweden. "America and Congress's credibility is on the line, because we give lip service to the notion that these international norms are important," Obama added.
13:16 GMT: US President Barack Obama urged the international community to respond effectively to chemical weapons’ use in Syria during his statement at a press conference in Sweden.
"real strong message” to Assad must be sent to ‘degrade’ his ability to use chemical weapons again, the President added. 
Obama stated that he was not required to submit proposals for military action to Congress for approval, but also said that not doing so was no empty exercise.
10:20 GMT: Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan reiterated on Wednesday that Turkey would take part in any international coalition against Syria but didn't say whether that would include military action.  
00:47 GMT: A new US Senate draft resolution for authorizing use of military force in Syria sets a 60-day deadline, with one 30-day extension possible, while barring ground forces.
The resolution was drafted by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman and ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee. The resolution needs 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a filibuster by opponents.
The draft follows Tuesday’s hearing on Syria featuring testimony from US Secretary of State John Kerry, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. 
00:30 GMT: Though not yet in session, members of the US House of Representatives have released two separate draft resolutions on potential US military action in Syria, Politico reported. 
Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.), a top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, offered a resolution calling for President Obama to consult with Congress within 60 days to provide information on nine fronts to justify the use of military force.
The resolution would require a summary of “attempts to build a coalition; a ‘detailed plan for military action in Syria, including specific goals and military objectives;’ what would qualify as degrading the chemical weapons supply; an explanation how a limited military strike would encourage regime change, prevent terrorists from taking control of power or weapons, secure the chemical weapons and deter their future use; how a strike would prevent Iran and Russia from keeping Assad in power; information about Al Qaeda’s access to weapons; an explanation of whether weapons from Libya are being used by the Syrian opposition and an estimation of the cost.” 
The other resolution, offered by Democrats Rep. Gerry Connolly (Va.) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), is also supportive of a Syria attack but seeks to narrow the scope of any such action. Their resolution bars use of ground forces, limits attacks to 60 days while prohibiting a second series of attacks -- unless the Obama administration has proof Assad used chemical weapons again -- and says an attack on Syria can only happen to prevent use, not stockpiling, of chemical weapons. 
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill September 3, 2013 in Washington, DC (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill September 3, 2013 in Washington, DC (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowski)

Tuesday, September 3

23:17 GMT: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on Security Council members to develop a  response should UN inspectors find proof that Syria used chemical weapons. 
“I take note of the argument for action to prevent future uses of chemical weapons,” Ban said from UN headquarters in New York. “At the same time, we must consider the impact of any punitive measure on efforts to prevent further bloodshed and facilitate a political resolution of the conflict.”
UN inspectors are working “around the clock” after a recent investigation of an alleged chemical weapons attack near Damascus that the US and allies have attributed to the Syrian government. Once analyses of the site samples are completed, Ban will share the report’s results with the 193-member Member States and the 15-member Security Council.
Ban also appealed for a renewed commitment to solutions to the Syrian conflict during the upcoming G20 conference in Russia.
22:55 GMT: Some 56 percent of respondents do not want the US to intervene in Syria, according to the latest Reuters/Ipsos poll surveying the American public on potential strikes there. Only 19 percent surveyed supported US action, while 25 percent said they did not know what, if anything, the US should do.    
Just 29 percent of respondents support arming anti-government rebels in Syria, while 49 percent oppose. Another 21 percent were undecided on arming rebels.
22:50 GMT: At the conclusion of Tuesday’s Senate hearing Senator Rober Menendez stated that a resolution for the use of US military force in Syria would likely be written by the end of the day, and Congress might
convene a vote on that by Wednesday.
According to Menendez the text authorizing President Obama to commit military forces would ensure the intervention would not be open-ended "and specifically not with boots on the ground, American troops on the ground."
"It  is likely that we could very well be in a business meeting sometime after the classified hearing tomorrow morning," Menendez said. The Senate is scheduled to receive a classified hearing with administration
officials on Wednesday morning. 
22:45 GMT: During the Syria hearing, a Washington Post photographer snapped a photo of Sen. John McCain playing poker on his iPhone. Soon after the photo made the rounds on Twitter, McCain tweeted, "Scandal! Caught playing iPhone game at 3+ hour Senate hearing - worst of all I lost!" 
22:40 GMT: Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told Congress Tuesday Russia may increase Syria military aid should the US attack, though he said he did not think this possibility should stall US action. 
"There is some indication that they (the Russians) have assured the regime that if we destroy something, they can replace it," Dempsey said during a Senate hearing. 
22:31 GMT: Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton backs President Obama’s appeal to Congress for authorization of attacks against Syria, The Washington Post reported. 
“Clinton supports the president’s effort to enlist the Congress in pursuing a strong and targeted response to the Assad regime’s horrific use of chemical weapons,” a Clinton adviser said in a statement.  
As secretary of state, Clinton advocated for the administration to do more to arm and assist forces opposed to Assad’s government in Syria.
19:59 GMT: Two Russian amphibious assault ships, “Novocherkassk” and “Minsk,” have headed to the Mediterranean Sea as part of a scheduled mission of monitoring the situation in the region, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman told ITAR-TASS.

The ships were dispatched from Russia’s Black and Baltic Sea Fleets, and will reach the destination area on September 5-6, joining the Russian standing naval force in the region, the ministry said.

The maneuvers are part of the “stage-by-stage rotation of warships and support ships of the standing naval force in the Mediterranean,” the spokesman explained.

One of the key tasks of the Russian standing naval force in the Mediterranean is “comprehensive monitoring over the air, underwater, and surface situation in the zone of its deployment,” he added.
19:22 GMT: During a congressional hearing in Washington Tuesday afternoon, Secretary of State John Kerry and Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, advocated for a limited military strike on Syria. Senator Bob Menendez (D-New York), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also said he supported action targeting the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
According to Sec. Kerry, “The authorization that Pres. Obama seeks is definitively in our national security interests.” The former senator also said Assad would be “arrogant” and “foolish” to retaliate against any US strike.
18:24 GMT: Russia’s missile defense system “proved its effectiveness” after it was put on high alert following the Israeli-US test launch of a ballistic missile in the Mediterranean, said Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov.
Describing the Mediterranean as a modern “powder keg,” Antonov called for the US “not to play with fire,” and said it should show more responsibility for both regional security and world peace.
He reminded that the US and the USSR signed an agreement binding both parties to give notification of missile launches in advance, which is still valid between the US and Russia.
17:26 GMT: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday said he intends to bring the issue of the escalating Syrian crisis to the top of the G20 summit’s agenda.
Ban stressed that the use of military force is only legal in self-defense, or with the authorization of the UN Security Council. He also called for holding the Geneva-2 peace conference on Syria as soon as possible.
The UN Chief also reminded that UN investigators are set to return to Syria to investigate several other cases of alleged chemical weapons use.
16:10 GMT: Democratic leader in the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, said she believes Congress will support a resolution authorizing the use of military force against Syria.
Pelosi made her remarks after meeting the president and congressional leaders at the White House.
15:38 GMT: Republican US House Speaker John Boehner announced he will support President Obama’s call for military action in Syria, and said he believes his colleagues should also back the decision.
US Senator John McCain immediately reacted by applauding Boehner’s stance on his Twitter.

15:21 GMT: France won’t intervene in Syria unilaterally, should the US Congress veto military action against Syria, French President Francois Hollande has said.
If the decision of [US Congress] was not positive, then we would not act alone, but we would not shirk our responsibilities, by supporting the opposition in Syria in such a way that would provide a response,”Hollande said as quoted by Reuters.
15:05 GMT: The Israeli Defense Ministry confirmed a US defense agency took part in a “successful flight test of the new version of the Sparrow target missile” in an e-mail statement to RT Arabic.
“Israel’s Missile Defense Organization and the US Missile Defense Agency officials conducted the flight test. The main contractor for the integration and development of the Sparrow is Rafael and the main contractor of the Arrow Weapon System is MLM of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) in conjunction with Boeing,” the statement explained.
14:39 GMT: Pentagon has confirmed the US Defense Department took part in Israeli missile test in the Mediterranean.

The missile test was carried out “with technical support of the US Defense Department,” the department spokesman George Little said as quoted by Itar-Tass.

According to Little, the test was “pre-planned” and “not connected to Syria.” 

14:12 GMT: US President Barack Obama held a White House meeting with select members of Congress to discuss the Syrian crisis in Washington on Tuesday morning. The president again stressed that he was pursuing a limited and proportional military strike that would degrade the Assad regime’s capabilities of using chemical weapons while also underlining a broader strategy that will allow the US to assist opposition fighters in the future if necessary. 
When asked if he was confident that Congress would authorize the use of military force against the Syrian government, Obama replied, "I am." 
13:40 GMT: The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) announced on Tuesday that more than 2 million Syrians have fled the country since civil war began in March 2011.
“The war is now well into its third year and Syria is hemorrhaging women, children and men who cross borders often with little more than the clothes on their backs,” the UNHCR statement read.
A further 4.25 million people have been displaced inside Syria, according to data from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). This makes the country’s refugee crisis“unparalleled in recent history,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said.
12:37 GMT: World markets immediately plunged on Tuesday after the Russian Defense Ministry reported the launch of two ballistic missiles in the eastern Mediterranean. The FTSE 100 slumped down nearly one percent (7.01 points), and stock markets in Germany and France experienced similar losses. Traders reacted to fears of escalation of war in the Middle East as far as India, as the BSE Sensex fell nearly 4 percent (651 points) on “geopolitical worries,” Reuters India reported. 
Some of the markets recovered soon after the launch was claimed by IDF to be a joint Israeli-US early warning system test.
11:30 GMT: The US Navy did not fire any missiles from ships in the Mediterranean, according to a spokesman for the US Navy’s European headquarters.

“No missiles were fired from U.S. ships in the Mediterranean,” the spokesman said.
10:58 GMT: Israel claimed a joint missile launch with the US in the Mediterranean Sea. The Israeli Defense Ministry spokesmen told journalists that they tested an Ankor-type (“Sparrow”) target missile to check how well the anti-missile system known as “Arrow-3” functions. The launch took place at 06:15 GMT, the ministry spokesmen added.
10:08 GMT: Syria’s missile warning system has not detected any rockets landing on the country’s territory, a Syrian security source has told Lebanese channel al-Manar TV.
9:59 GMT: Russia’s early warning radars have detected the launch of two ballistic rockets in the eastern Mediterranean, Russia’s Defense Ministry stated. The launch reportedly took place at 06:16 GMT Tuesday. 
The trajectory of the missiles is reported to have been from the central part of the Mediterranean Sea towards the eastern landmass. Both rockets have allegedly fallen into the sea 300 kilometers off the coast, RIA Novosti news agency reported.
00:30 GMT: Samples collected by the UN chemical experts team in the Damascus suburb will be transferred to laboratories for analysis “within hours,” a spokesperson for UN Secretary-General ban Ki-moon has said in a note to correspondents.
Since the return of the Mission last Saturday, the UN team worked around the clock to finalize the preparations of the samples in view of their shipment to the designated laboratories.” 
The samples were shipped this afternoon from The Hague and will reach their destination within hours,”the note continued.
It added that the designated laboratories are prepared to begin the analyses “immediately after receipt of samples.” 

Monday, September 2

20:40 GMT: US Senator John McCain stated Monday that Congress rejecting President Obama's proposal for military force in Syria would be catastrophic.
"If the Congress were to reject a resolution like this after the president of the United States has already committed to action, the consequences would be catastrophic," McCain told reporters after a meeting with Obama.
20:19 GMT: The White House is ready to rework language in a draft resolution that would authorize military force in Syria, Reuters quoted an administration official as saying. The change would address concerns from lawmakers. The administration is open to changes "within the parameters that (the) president has previously explained."
19:00 GMT: The deployment of USS Nimitz and other warships towards the Red Sea shows that the United States is determined to start a military campaign against Syria, said a top Russian lawmaker.
By sending the Nimitz nuclear aircraft carrier to Syria’s shores, Obama demonstrates that the military action has been postponed, but not cancelled, and that he is determined to start a war,” tweeted Aleksey Pushkov, the head of the international affairs committee in the State Duma.
16:56 GMT: A declassified French intelligence report, based on satellite images of the August 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria, shows that the strikes came from government-controlled areas to the east and west of Damascus, and targeted rebel-held zones, sources told Reuters.

The Syrian government subsequently bombed areas where chemical strikes took place to wipe out evidence, a source in the French government said, adding that the chemical attack was massive and coordinated and the opposition would not have the means to carry it out.

"Unlike previous attacks that used small amounts of chemicals and were aimed at terrorizing people, this attack was tactical and aimed at regaining territory," the source said.
16:55 GMT: Syria's President Bashar Assad told French newspaper Le Figaro that the allegations on chemical attacks were “illogical.”
15:50 GMT: US Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will appear as witnesses at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Tuesday on the authorization of the use of military force in Syria, the committee said in a statement.
15:24 GMT: Foreign ministers from the 11 countries of the Friends of Syria group will meet September 8 in Rome, a diplomatic source told Reuters. The core group of nations includes France, the United States, Britain, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
15:22 GMT: The British government has no intention to hold a second parliamentary vote on taking military action against Syria, AFP reported. "Parliament has spoken and that is why the government has absolutely no plans to go back to parliament," a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said. "The position we are in is that parliament has expressed its will and that is the basis on which we will proceed.”
14:59 GMT: A senior member of France’s ruling Socialist Party rebuffed opposition calls for a parliamentary vote on whether to take military action against Syria. Elisabeth Guigou urged lawmakers to respect the president's constitutional right as the army's commander-in-chief to decide what action French armed forces would take.
"In a complicated situation like this, we need to stick to principles, in other words the constitution, which does not oblige the president to hold a vote, nor even a debate," Guigou, the parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman, told France Info radio.
13:29 GMT: President Vladimir Putin has supported a proposal from Russian MPs to send a parliamentary delegation to the US Congress in an effort to resolve the Syrian crisis. 
“We should more actively involve the parliaments of our countries,” Federation Council chairwoman Valentina Matviyenko said. “We would like to address senators and members of the House of Representatives in Congress, to have a dialogue with our partners.” 
Russia will also welcome members of the US Congress in Moscow, Matviyenko said. 
"I think if we manage to establish a dialogue with our partners in the U.S. Congress ... we could possibly better understand each other, and we hope that the U.S. Congress will occupy a balanced position in the end and, without strong arguments in place ... will not support the proposal on use of force in Syria,"Valentina Matviyenko said.
12:39 GMT: NATO has “its own role in settling the Syrian crisis,” said Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, adding that it conducts “closed consultations between allies.”
“I don't foresee any further NATO role” in the crisis solution, he noted. “It’s for individual allies to decide how they will respond.” 
He called the international community for a firm response to the alleged August 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria. 
"We believe that these unspeakable actions which claimed the lives of hundreds of men, women and children cannot be ignored," Rasmussen told a news conference. "I think there is an agreement that we need a firm international response in order to avoid chemical attacks taking place in the future," he said. 
Rasmussen also said he is convinced that the Syrian government was responsible for the chemical attack.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (AFP Photo / Georges Gobet)
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (AFP Photo / Georges Gobet)

12:31 GMT: The crisis in Syria is not on the agenda of the G20 Leaders’ Summit on September 5-6 in St. Petersburg, but “it is for the Russian presidency of the G20 to make this decision," a spokesman for the EU said.  Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that, since the G20 was founded as financial summit, Syria would not be on the agenda. Lavrov added, however, that any leader could raise the subject of Syria and “they will be ready for this talk.” 
12:01 GMT: A BBC poll has found that almost three quarters of the UK population believe that MPs were right to reject military intervention in Syria. Seventy-one percent of people thought Parliament voted the right way, while 72 percent said they did not think the move would negatively impact UK-US relations. A further two thirds said they would not care if it did.
10:21 GMT: Hezbollah has promised to retaliate by firing surface-to-surface missiles at Israel if it decides to partake in the strike against Damascus. 
“Hizbullah is controlling 8,000 kilometers in Reef Homs and will not hesitate to participate in an attack by firing surface-to-surface missiles from Syria,” said a source from a joint operation run by Hezbollah and the forces of President Assad, as reported by the Kuwaiti al-Rai newspaper. 
10:00 GMT: The war in Syria has displaced 7 million Syrians, or almost one-third of the population, the head of the UN refugee agency, Tarik Kurdi, says. Two million children are among those directly affected by the war. Kurdi stressed that UN assistance has been a "drop in the sea of humanitarian need"and that the funding gap is "very, very wide." 
09:49 GMT: Syria's army is on high alert and will “remain so until terrorism is completely eradicated," a security official in Damascus said Monday. 
09:25 GMT: Foreign Minister Lavrov met with his South-African counterpart to discuss a range of issues including Syria, on which he said that "The framework for [the Geneva peace talks on Syria] was in place", but that partners who side with the US strike are less interested in bringing the rebels to the negotiating table than they are in creating a "controlled chaos". He added that this puts the peace talks in danger, and finally, that a strike would only allow extremism to flourish, instead of creating a stable transition that everyone seems to desire. 
08:15 GMT: The US has briefed China about evidence on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hong Lei, said during a daily news briefing on Monday. Hong did not say what China thought of the evidence, but reiterated that China opposes the use of chemical weapons by any side, adding that Beijing supported the independent, objective investigation by the UN experts. 
07:39 GMT: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said that a 'regime of secrecy' by the West is unacceptable with regard to Syria and evidence of the use of chemical weapons there.

"If there truly is top secret information available, the veil should be lifted. This is a question of war and peace. To continue this game of secrecy is simply inappropriate,"
 Lavrov said during an address to the students of the Moscow State University of International Relations.

Lavrov has called the information provided to Russia by the US 'inconclusive’.

"We were shown some sketches, but there was nothing concrete, no geographical coordinates or details... and no proof the test was done by professionals... there were no comments anywhere regarding the experts' doubt about the footage circulating all over the internet," Lavrov said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (RIA Novosti / Maxim Blinov)
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (RIA Novosti / Maxim Blinov)

He added that "what our American, British and French partners have shown us before - as well as now - does not convince us at all. There are no supporting facts, there is only repetitive talk in the vein of 'we know for sure.' And when we ask for further clarification, we receive the following response: 'You are aware that this is classified information, therefore we cannot show it to you.' So there are still no facts." 

Sunday, September 1

04:45 GMT: World's number one tennis superstar Novak Djokovic speaks out against a military strike on Syria, recounting his experience as a child growing up in Belgrade, during the 78-day NATO bombing of 1999.
After winning his third match of the US Open, he told Reuters that "I'm totally against any kind of weapon, any kind of air strike, missile attack." 
"I'm totally against anything that is destructive... because I had this personal experience, I know it cannot bring any good to anybody."
23:43 GMT: The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz along with four destroyers and a cruiserhave been ordered to move west in the Arabian Sea toward the Red Sea, so that it can help support a US strike on Syria if requested, a US official told Reuters. 
22:16 GMT: The two identical letters delivered to the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and President of the UN Security Council, Maria Cristina Perceval call on the international body to maintain its role of protector of international legitimacy and prevent US-led aggression against Damascus, Syria's permanent representative to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari told Sana. 
20:30 GMT: The Arab League has issued a resolution calling on the international community to act against the Syrian government and punish it as a war criminal for killing hundreds of civilians in a chemical attack.
Arab League foreign ministers have urged the United Nations and international community to "take the deterrent and necessary measures against the culprits of this crime that the Syrian regime bears responsibility for," according to the final resolution of the Cairo meeting.
19:56 GMT: Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany would only take part in a military intervention in Syria with a NATO or United Nations mandate. She was planning to talk with Russian President Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the next G20 meeting to find common ground on the Syrian conflict, she said during a TV debate with her political rival Peer Steinbrueck.
19:39 GMT: France plans to “make public the declassified documents on the Syrian chemical arms program” soon, a source within the country’s government said.

The source added that media reports, claiming that French intelligence possess information that Bashar Assad’s government has a chemical weapons arsenal of 1,000 tons, are “correct.”
19:00 GMT: The head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Russian Duma Aleksey Pushkov said that Obama would likely use the G20 summit for justifying a military action against Syria.
“Obama will try to use the G20 summit for justifying an attack on Syria. Whatever the summit’s program would have been, it will now most likely be about Syria,” Pushkov said on his Twitter.
18:40 GMT: A US amphibious transport ship has been deployed to the Mediterranean, reports AFP quoting an anonymous defense official. The USS San Antonio is "on station in the Eastern Mediterranean" but "has received no specific tasking," he said. 
The San Antonio carries no Tomahawk cruise missiles but has up to four choppers and hundreds of Marines on board. The US already has five destroyers in place for possible missile strikes on Syria.
USS San Antonio (AFP Photo / HO / US Navy / MC3 Derek Paumen)
USS San Antonio (AFP Photo / HO / US Navy / MC3 Derek Paumen)

17:51 GMT: The US essentially declared war on Syria, according to c Syrian Minister for National Reconciliation Ali Haidar, who spoke to Bloomberg in a phone interview. “I am among those who call for a preemptive [response by all Syrians],” Haidar said.

“He’s kept the sword in his hand, he just hasn’t chosen to limit himself to a date,” Haidar added, in reference to Obama's announcement that he would seek Congressional approval for a strike on Saturday. 
17:42 GMT: The Syrian opposition chief has urged the Arab League to back Western strikes. Ahmad Jarba stated that Syria could be the gate to fight Iran.
"I am here before you today to appeal to your brotherly and humanitarian sentiments and ask you to back the international operation against the destructive war machine," Jarba stated at the meeting of minsiters in Cairo. 
17:41 GMT: Saudi Arabia has called on the world community to take all necessary steps to deter“Syrian government violence.” The call comes as Arab League Foreign Ministers convene for an urgent meeting in Cairo.
"The time has come to call on the world community to bear its responsibility and take the deterrent measure that puts a halt to the tragedy," Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Faisa said adding that the Syrian regime has lost its Arab and Islamic legitimacy.
16:53 GMT: Turkish police blocked the entrance to the Gezi Park in Istanbul preventing hundreds of demonstrators from rallying there against a possible US intervention in Syria. 
At least 1,000 people took part in the demonstration, forming human chains on the city's celebrated Istiklal Avenue, the AFP reported. Smaller protests have also spread across Istanbul, aimed at combatting its commercial development. Earlier this summer Turkey was convulsed by a series of violent protests across the country. Their target was Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development party (AKP), accused of repressing critics and of forcing Islamic values on the mainly Muslim but staunchly secular nation.
14:50 GMT:


Demonstrators form a human chain during a peace day rally at Taksim square in central Istanbul September 1, 2013 (Reuters / Osman Orsal)
Demonstrators form a human chain during a peace day rally at Taksim square in central Istanbul September 1, 2013 (Reuters / Osman Orsal)

14:40 GMT: US Secretary of State John Kerry commented that the US sent people to Russia with evidence on Syria and the country "chose" to ignore it. 

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