(Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama’s effort to win legislative backing for military strikes against Syria passed its first hurdle on Wednesday when a Senate committee voted in favor, but the narrow margin of victory showed the depth of U.S. caution.
In a possible sign of internal unrest in Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s ruling Alawite sect in the shadow of a likely U.S. intervention, Syrian opposition figures said General Ali Habib, a former defense minister, had defected. Syria denied the report.
Washington and Syria’s main backer, Russia remained publicly at odds as Obama tried to build his case for military action over chemical weapons before flying to Russia for a G20 summit hosted by President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.
Putin said U.S. congressional approval without a U.N. Security Council resolution would be an act of aggression, and accused U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry of lying by playing down the role of the militant group al Qaeda with rebel forces.
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