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Obama to Address Nation Tuesday on Syria Push

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

With his request for congressional authorization for strikes on Syria faltering, President Barack Obama announced he would make the case to the nation on Tuesday from the White House.

Speaking at a press conference from the G-20 summit in Russia, the president said he would continue trying to convince a skeptical American public and Congress of the need to act.

I will make the best case that I can, he said.

He also came the closest yet to saying he would not strike Syria without Congress approval, reiterating that the move was not symbolic. He said he could not claim that Syrias use of chemical weapons on its own people was an imminent threat to the United States or its allies.

This wasnt even a situation like Libya, where, you know, youve got troops rolling towards Benghazi and you have a concern about time, in terms of saving somebody right away, he said.

But he stopped short of saying that he wouldnt strike under repeated questioning.

Im not going to engage in parlor games now ... about whether or not its going to pass, when Im talking substantively to Congress about why this is important and talking to American people about why this is important, he said.

Obama also said he was not eager to take military action.

I was elected to end wars and not start em. Ive spent the last four years to do everything I can to reduce our reliance on military power, he said. But what I also know is there are times where we have to make hard choices if were going to stand up for the things that we care about.

Obama said he is not surprised by the opposition in Congress.

I knew this was going to be a heavy lift, he said. He noted he had his own polling operations and knew the reluctance of the American people who have been through a decade of war, including in his own party.

Asked about a proposal to give Syria 45 days to agree to give up its chemical weapons, Obama said he was open to new ideas and was not itching for military action. But he said he has not yet seen an alternative that would do the job.

My goal is to maintain the international norm on banning chemical weapons. I want that enforcement to be real, I want it to be serious. I want people to understand that gassing innocent people, delivering chemical weapons against children is something we dont do. ... Weve got to stand up for that principle.

As for members of Congress, Obama said that its conceivable he could fail to convince a majority of the public of the need for action, and in that case it would be up to lawmakers to decide what they think is best for the country, even if its unpopular.

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