Fla. leaders react to Pres. Obama's speech

Leaders react after Obama vows not to pursue 'open-ended action' in Syria


MIAMI – Political leaders in Florida are reacting to President Barack Obama's recent remarks of vowing not to "pursue an open-ended action" in Syria during an address to the country.

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U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, listened to the president's speech Tuesday evening.

"It is the threat of military force that has brought Assad to the point of considering international control of his chemical weapons. What Congress should do now is authorize the president's request of a limited strike," Nelson said. "Assad should be warned that if he does not turn the chemical weapons over to international custody in the next three weeks, then the president is authorized to strike."

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), Chairman of the Middle East and North Africa Subcommittee, issued remarks in response to Obama's speech on Syria.

"Russia, together with China, has protected the Assad regime and stymied repeated attempts by the U.S. and other responsible nations at the UN Security Council to hold it accountable," said Ros-Lehtinen. "How can we trust the Russians to convince Assad to willingly hand over his chemical weapons? The use of chemical weapons merits a strong U.S. military response that will act as a deterrent for other rogue regimes such as Iran and North Korea. It is in the US national security interest to keep the use of poison gas from becoming normalized and accepted in clear violation of the Geneva Convention and international norms. The Geneva Convention should not be interpreted as allowing a 'free first use of gas.'"

Ros-Lehtinen also released questions about the Russian proposal, including "Will the Assad regime grant access to all of its facilities and stockpiles, or just a select few?" and "What concessions are the U.S. making to Russia to secure this plan?"

"I have repeatedly called for the Assad regime to grant UN inspectors immediate access to all of its WMD facilities and stockpiles so that they can be protected, sealed and dismantled," Ros-Lehtinen continued. "If the UN is to gain access to Assad's materials and weapons now, it must not be limited to just chemical weapons, it must be for all WMDs, and it must be given unfettered access with verifiable assurances that nothing has been hidden, moved or transferred."

Congressman Ted Deutch (FL-21), Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee's Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, also issued a statement following Obama's remarks.

"No dictator should be able to gas his own people without facing consequences from the international community, and I applaud President Obama's commitment to this basic principle of human rights," said Deutch. "Unfortunately, for the past two years Russia has blocked every international effort to protect innocent Syrians from Bashar Al Assad's campaign of mass murder. It is only now, faced with the threat of U.S. military action, that Russia has suddenly expressed any interest addressing the crisis in Syria through peaceful means."

"I am truly hopeful that a proposal allowing for the seizure of Assad's chemical weapons is more than another attempt by a brutal dictator to skirt accountability," Deutch continued. "What remains clear is that the threat of U.S. military force must always remain credible. We must not give Assad or anyone else a reason to doubt that America -- and the world -- unequivocally reject chemical warfare."

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