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White House tries to gain support for Syria strike

WASHINGTON (AP) - The White House is making a big push to rally members of Congress and the American public behind President Barack Obama's plan for a U.S. military strike against Syria.

His administration says the government of Syrian President Bassar Assad used chemical weapons in an attack last month near Damascus, and that a strong U.S. response is needed to deter the future use of deadly chemicals.

Syria claims rebels carried out the Aug. 21 attack.

Obama's chief of staff, Denis McDonough, is set to make the White House's case during interviews on five Sunday talk shows.

Vice President Joe Biden plans to host a dinner Sunday night for a group of Senate Republicans. And lawmakers should expect more phone calls from top officials.

Obama is giving a national address Tuesday night.

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The U.S. government insists it has the intelligence to prove Syrian government forces carried out a chemical weapons attack last month in a rebel-held suburb of Damascus, but so far it has not made public any concrete evidence.

The Obama administration says its assessment is based mainly on satellite and signal intelligence. But multiple requests to view the satellite imagery have been denied, as has a request by The Associated Press to see a transcript of communications allegedly ordering Syrian military personnel to prepare for a chemical weapons attack by readying gas masks.

Open-source evidence does provide clues about the attack, including videos of the rockets that analysts believe were likely used. U.S. officials yesterday released a compilation of videos showing victims, including children, exhibiting what appear to be symptoms of nerve gas poisoning.

Some experts say the size of the strike and the amount of toxic chemicals that appear to have been delivered make it doubtful that the rebels could have carried it out, a scenario that the Assad government and its ally Russia have aggressively pushed. But what's missing from the public record is direct proof, rather than circumstantial evidence, tying the attack to the regime.


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