"A vote against this would be catastrophic in its consequences, not only as far as this issue is concerned, but in the future," Republican Senator John McCain told reporters at the White House after his meeting with Obama. He was joined by another top Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

During the meeting at the Oval Office, which lasted for about an hour, Obama underscored that America is stronger when the President and Congress work together to stand up for national interests, a Senior White House Official said.

"The President made clear his view that the failure to take limited action against Assad would unravel the deterrent impact of the international norm against chemical weapons use; would endanger US allies in the region and would risk emboldening Assad and his allies, Hezbollah and Iran," the official said.

Obama's meetings with top Republican Senators came ahead of Secretary of State John Kerry and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel's visit to the Capitol Hill on Wednesday to make the case to Congress on why targeted military action is necessary to hold the Assad regime accountable for their alleged use of chemical weapons, a State Department official said.

Briefing reporters after their meeting with Obama, the two Senators favored passing a resolution to authorize for a military action against Syria. "We want to work to make that resolution something that the majority of the members of both houses can support," said McCain, a former Republican presidential candidate.

"We do want an articulation of a goal that over time will degrade Bashar Assad's capabilities, increase and upgrade the capabilities of the Free Syrian Army and the Free Syrian government so that they can reverse the momentum on the battlefield, that is presently not in their favor because they have not received the assistance that they need, while Bashar Assad has received an abundance of capabilities from his sponsors, Russia and Iran," he said.

"The first thing I suggested to the President is give the opposition a chance to speak directly to the American people. John and I and the president all believe that the Syrians by nature are not al-Qaeda sympathizers. They're not trying to replace one dictator, Assad, who has been brutal, his whole family has been brutal for generations, to only have al-Qaeda run Syria. That makes no sense," Graham said.


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