WASHINGTON - Washington deepened its diplomatic offensive at home and abroad Sunday as President Barack Obama braced for a key week in his push to persuade sceptical Americans to back strikes against the Syrian regime.
Lawmakers returning Monday from their summer break are set to begin debate on whether to approve limited US military action in Syria, with a Senate vote possibly coming as early as Wednesday.
Obama will blitz US networks on Monday evening before addressing the American people from the Oval Office on Tuesday aiming to lay out the case to deepen US involvement in a two-year-old war that has claimed more than 100,000 lives.
President Bashar al-Assad was also to take to the US airwaves to deny he ordered a suspected chemical attack on his people last month, which has shocked the world and galvanized the Obama administration into preparing for its first military foray into the brutal conflict.
In a rare interview with a US network, Assad insisted he was not behind the August 21 gas attack on a Damascus suburb, and issued a veiled warning to the American people not to become militarily involved in the rebellion against him that erupted in March 2011.
The long-time Syrian leader warned that as his country prepares "as best we can" for US military action, there could be a bitter consequences.
"There's no evidence that I used chemical weapons against my own people," he reportedly told CBS television, in the interview to be aired Monday.
Assad said he "had a message to the American people that it had not been a good experience for them to get involved in the Middle East in wars and conflicts."