September 4, 2013 - 14:13 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The Vatican is ramping up its opposition to threatened military strikes against Syria, according to The Associated Press.
Pope Francis on Wednesday, Sept 4, urged Catholics and non-Catholics alike to participate in his planned day of fasting and prayer for peace Saturday, urging more than 50,000 people gathered for his weekly general audience: "Let the cry for peace rise up across the Earth!"
The Vatican has invited ambassadors accredited to the Holy See to attend a briefing Thursday on the pope's agenda for the four-hour vigil Saturday night, and bishops' conferences from around the world have announced plans to host local versions of the vigil as well.
In recent speeches, tweets and remarks, Francis has called for a negotiated settlement in Syria but has also condemned the use of chemical weapons.
Leaders of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee reached an agreement Tuesday on a draft authorization for the use of military force in Syria, although it was much narrower than the request made by President Barack Obama.
According to Reuters, among other provisions, the draft sets a 60-day limit on U.S. military action in Syria, with a possibility of a single 30-day extension subject to conditions.
Obama is asking Congress to back his call for limited U.S. strikes on Syria to punish President Bashar al-Assad for his suspected use of chemical weapons against civilians during a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people.
The compromise deal reached by Senator Robert Menendez, the Democratic chairman of the panel, and Senator Bob Corker, the top Republican, includes a provision banning any use of U.S. armed forces on the ground in Syria.
The draft document requires Obama to consult with Congress and submit to the Senate and House of Representatives foreign relations panel a strategy for negotiating a political settlement to the Syria conflict, including a review of all forms of assistance to the rebels fighting to oust Assad.
In an interview with Le Figaro newspaper, Syrian President Assad blamed France for deciding “to renounce its independence and become a subaltern actor in American politics.”
“If the policies of the French state are hostile to the Syrian people, the state will be their enemy,” Assad said. “There will be repercussions, negative ones obviously, on French interests.”
Assad described the Middle East as a “powder keg” and predicated a Western attack on Syria could push the entire Middle East into chaos.
“We shouldn’t just talk about a Syrian response, but what will happen after the first strike,” he said. “Everybody will lose control of the situation when the powder keg blows. There is a risk of a regional war.”