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U.S. public opposes Syria intervention as Obama presses Congress

A protester holds up a sign against U.S. action in Syria as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin E. Dempsey, John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, and Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Defense, present the administration's case for U.S. military action against Syria to a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in Washington September 3, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts
A protester holds up a sign against U.S. action in Syria as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin E. Dempsey, John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, and Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Defense, present the administration's case for U.S. military action against Syria to a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in Washington September 3, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts

By Andy Sullivan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama has failed so far to convince most Americans that the United States should launch a limited military strike against Syria in response to a suspected chemical weapons attack by the Syrian government, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Tuesday.

Some 56 percent of those surveyed said the United States should not intervene in Syria, while only 19 percent supported action, the online poll found. Some 25 percent said they did not know what course of action the United States should take.

The findings are essentially unchanged from last week and indicated that Obama changed few minds on Saturday when he argued that Washington has the obligation to punish Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for what the United States says was a sarin gas attack that killed more than 1,400 people, including hundreds of children, near Damascus on August 21.

The poll showed that respondents were more likely to support a strike if they were specifically asked about the chemical-weapons attack. Even then, only 29 percent said the United States should intervene, while 48 percent opposed action. Another 24 percent said they did not know.

Obama said on Saturday he had decided the United States should take military action against Syrian government targets but has asked Congress to approve the action in an acknowledgement that many Americans have little appetite for new military engagements after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The U.S. public's reluctance to get involved in Syria closely mirrors public sentiment in the United Kingdom, where Parliament last week voted down a motion to support military action by the United States' closest ally.

In the United States, 65 percent of those surveyed in a separate tracking poll agreed with a statement that said "the problems of Syria are none of our business." In the United Kingdom, a parallel poll by Ipsos found that 58 percent agreed with that statement.

Similarly, only 29 percent support the Obama administration's decision to arm anti-government rebels in Syria, while 49 percent oppose that move. Another 21 percent said they didn't know whether they agreed or disagreed with that strategy.

The online poll of 1,195 adult Americans was conducted between August 30 and September 3. It has a credibility interval of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

(Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by Karey Van Hall and Philip Barbara)

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