ATLANTA (AP) — Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday he believes the best path forward in Syria is for the United States to work out a deal with Russia for Syria to give up its chemical weapons.
Carter, in an event at The Carter Center, said it would not be a catastrophe if Congress were to vote against President Barack Obama's call for military action against Syria while diplomatic efforts are pursued.
"A lot of presidents have submitted things that were extremely important to us, maybe even more important than bombing Syria, and we've been rejected by Congress," Carter said. "It's just something you have to live with in a democracy."
Obama addressed the nation Tuesday night and signaled support for exploring a Russian proposal that would put Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime's chemical stockpile under international control before its eventual dismantling. That effort could offer a way out of a crisis that had recently prompted Obama's call for military action against Syria in retaliation for a suspected chemical weapons attack last month.
Obama said Tuesday night that recent diplomatic steps offer "the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons" inside Syria without the use of force, but he also insisted the U.S. military will keep the pressure on Assad "and be ready to respond" if other measures fail. Obama also said he had asked congressional leaders to postpone a vote on legislation he has been seeking to authorize the use of military force against Syria.
Speaking prior to the president's address, Carter said he supported the Russian plan, adding it still wasn't clear who ordered the use of chemical weapons.
"We have a situation where everyone agrees that chemical weapons were used, with varying accounts of how many people were killed ... But exactly who gave the orders is still unproven," Carter said.
He added that he does not believe a military strike would resolve the situation and added any attack could inflame passions against the U.S. "And you know if we kill a few dozen people with our missiles, their photographs are gonna be on every news medium in the world and the United States will be blamed," Carter added.
Looming over the proposal to disarm Syria is a demand by the U.S. and France for a binding U.N. resolution calling for "very severe consequences" for non-compliance.
Carter said it was likely the U.S. would have to back down from that request but expressed hope that a resolution could be near.
"If they do turn over their weapons to the United Nations that will create a new environment on the ground in Syria because they have many, many stockpile locations in Syria," Carter said. "If you send a 20-person U.N. inspection team to all those different places in Syria, you would have a ceasefire in a large part of Syria."
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