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House speaker asks Obama to make case clearly for Syria action

House Speaker John Boehner holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington March 21, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
House Speaker John Boehner holds a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington March 21, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner urged President Barack Obama on Wednesday to make the case personally to Congress and the American people for potential military action in Syria.

In a letter to Obama that was released to the media, Boehner said Obama must explain the legal basis for any use of force in Syria and the "intended effect of the potential military strikes."

A growing number of U.S. lawmakers - including many from Boehner's Republican Party - have been complaining they have not been properly consulted on the situation in Syria.

"I have conferred with the chairmen of the national security committees who have received initial outreach from senior Administration officials, and while the outreach has been appreciated, it is apparent from the questions above that the outreach has, to date, not reached the level of substantive consultation," Boehner said.

Syrians stocked up on supplies and some left homes close to potential targets on Wednesday as U.S. officials sketched out plans for multi-national air strikes a week after an apparent poison gas attack by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces that residents say killed hundreds of people.

Boehner said he was "mindful" of the importance of the situation in Syria to the U.S. national interest. But he warned of risks, including Assad losing control of his chemical weapons, or organizations tied to al Qaeda winning more territory, and said it was essential Obama communicate with the public and Congress.

"Now, having again determined your red line has been crossed, should a decisive response involve the use of the United States military, it is essential that you provide a clear, unambiguous explanation of how military action - which is a means, not a policy - will secure U.S. objectives and how it fits into your overall policy," he wrote.

Boehner included a list of 14 questions he wanted Obama to answer, including whether the administration intended to ask Congress for more money if the military action ended up being longer and more involved than expected.

(Reporting by Susan Cornwell and Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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