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Obama favors diplomatic solution for Syria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama remains committed to diplomatic efforts to end the violence in Syria, the White House said on Tuesday, despite calls from a leading Republican senator for military action against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

"The President has repeatedly called for an immediate halt to the violence in Syria. Currently the administration is focused on diplomatic and political approaches rather than a military intervention," said Tommy Vietor, a White House spokesman.

"Our best chance to do that and to usher in a political transition is to continue to isolate the regime, cut off key revenue streams, and push the opposition to unite itself under a clear transition plan that makes space for Syrians of all creeds and ethnicities," he said.

On Monday, Senator John McCain, an influential Republican who lost to Obama in the 2008 presidential election, said the United States should lead an international effort to protect Syrian cities and towns through air strikes on Syrian government forces.

McCain was an early advocate of the NATO no-fly zone that helped topple former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi last year.

Other lawmakers, including U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, the top congressional Republican, urge a more cautious approach.

"The situation in Syria is pretty complicated," Boehner told reporters when asked about McCain's comments. "Until there's a clear direction as to what is happening there, involving ourselves at this point in time would be premature."

Almost a year after protests against the Assad family's four-decade rule erupted in Syria, Assad faces growing Western anger for preventing aid from entering a devastated district of the city of Homs and over accusations of human rights abuses.

The United Nations says Syrian security forces have killed more than 7,500 civilians during the revolt. Assad's government portrays the uprising as a campaign by foreign-backed Islamist insurgents.

(Reporting By Missy Ryan and Donna Smith; Editing by Paul Simao)

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