President Barack Obama's surprise move to seek congressional authorization before ordering any military action against the Syrian regime was met with a mixed reception around the world Sunday, with a chorus of Arab states calling for intervention — while a key Syrian government official disparaged the White House for a lack of leadership.
At an Arab League meeting in Cairo on Sunday evening, foreign ministers passed a resolution pressing the United Nations and the global community to “take the deterrent and necessary measures against the culprits of this crime that the Syrian regime bears responsibility for,” according to Reuters.
The ministers also concluded that those responsible for the lethal chemical weapons attack should face trial just like other “war criminals.”
And Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said merely condemning President Bashar Assad’s regime for alleging staging the poison gas attack, which the White House has said killed some 1,429 people, was only a half measure.
“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,” al-Faisal said, Reuters reported.
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Yet earlier Sunday, on the possibility of punitive military strikes against Syria, al-Faisal said: "We stand by the will of the Syrian people. They know their best interests, so whatever they accept, we accept, and whatever they refuse, we refuse."
An official in Pakistan also signaled Sunday that the South Asian nation may be prepared to join a potential coalition if the Obama administration decides to launch military strikes against key Syrian regime targets.
Pakistan's advisor for foreign affairs and national security, Sartaj Aziz, told NBC News that the nation "stands on principle for the respect of the integrity and sovereignty of any country, while condemning the use of chemical weapons."
But Syria’s neighbors Lebanon and Iraq, as well as Algeria, all refused to sign off on the resolution, according to Reuters. Syria, moreover, is barred from the League.
Meanwhile, a leading Syrian government official early Sunday leveled harsh criticism against the Obama administration which, before Saturday's announcement to seek Congressional approval, appeared on the brink of launching missiles into areas around Damascus.
"The hesitation and the disappointment is so obvious in the words of President Obama yesterday," Syrian deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad told reporters in Damascus, according to The Associated Press. "The confusion was clear as well."
Syria's state-run SANA news agency reported Assad said his government is equipped to confront a potential U.S. military strike, but the agency did not quote the leader directly, according to the AP.
Assad's regime alleges the Aug. 21 chemical attacks were carried out by rebel fighters, but it has not presented proof of that claim. The Obama administration has forcefully charged the Syrian government with a "crime against humanity."
Following several days of sometimes dramatic prevarication among boosters of Western military intervention, a French official Sunday said his country was not prepared to act alone against Assad's regime and called on the international community to consider punitive strikes.
"France cannot go in alone," French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said in a radio interview amid growing pressure on President Francois Hollande to put the prospect of intervention to a vote in the French parliament. "A coalition is necessary."
"We are entering a new phase," he said. "We now have time and with this time, we must put it to good use so that things move."
In a surprising vote on Thursday, Britain's parliament rejected a proposal for military action in Syria.
Although he urged patience, Vallas said Assad needed to be punished for the alleged chemical attacks.
"Chemical massacre by Damascus cannot go unpunished and the determination of the President of the Republic is intact," he said. "To gas a population constitutes a crime against humanity and it would be worse to do nothing."
In Rome, Pope Francis appealed for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in violence-plagued Syria and throughout the Middle East on Sept. 7.
In remarks ahead of the traditional Angelus prayer on Sunday, the pope said: "I appeal strongly for peace, an appeal which arises from the deep within me. How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake in that martyred country, especially among civilians and the unarmed! I think of many children will not see the light of the future!"
Pope Francis then denounced the use of chemical weapons.
"With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons: I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart," he said. "There is a judgment of God and of history upon our actions which are inescapable! Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence."
Wajahat Khan of NBC News, as well as The Associated Press and Reuters, contributed to this report.
First published September 1 2013, 5:32 PM