The US Senate delayed a test vote Monday on authorizing a limited military strike on Syria, amid signs of a possible breakthrough in international diplomacy to seek a political solution.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would not rush the vote scheduled for Wednesday to end the debate, citing that "international discussions" are continuing for a peaceful settlement of the crisis caused by the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government last month.
"I've spoken to the Republican leader. I've talked to virtually all my Democratic senators and we have enough votes to get cloture," Reid said, insisting he did not delay the vote because of rising opposition to the use of force from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers.
But he admitted the delay could give senators more time to weigh the arguments favoring a military strike and would give President Barack Obama an opportunity to speak to all senators and the whole nation.
"I don't think we need to see how fast we can do this. We have to see how well we can do this matter," Reid said.
Obama announced in August that he would seek congressional authorization to take military action on the Syrian government to punish its chemical attack on Aug. 21, and the Senate is expected to hold a debate, or possibly a vote on this within this week.
The Senate move came after the Obama administration welcomed a proposal put forward earlier Monday by Russia for Syria to surrender its stockpiles of chemical weapons to international control.
In interviews aired on six major US TV networks Monday evening, Obama said Syria's giving up its chemical weapons could avert a US military strike.
"It's possible if it's real. And... I think it's certainly a positive development when the Russians and the Syrians both make gestures toward dealing with these chemical weapons," Obama told CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer.
Obama said he talked about this idea with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, when he was attending a Group of 20 summit last week in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Moscow has opposed military action by the United States in Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons outside Damascus, which the US claims killed more than 1,400 people. The Syrian government has denied the accusation.
"And so it's possible that we can get a breakthrough, but ... it's going to have to be followed up on. And we don't want just a stalling tactic to put off... the pressure that we have on there right now," Obama said.
The Obama administration's plan to strike Syria is facing strong opposition not only from Republican lawmakers, but also from Democratic Congressmen, as many fear that the US intervention could lead to its direct involvement in an open-ended conflict in the war-torn Middle East country. Opinion polls have shown that a majority of Americans are against a military strike on Syria.