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SD delegation undecided on Syria military strike

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By Chet Brokaw

PIERRE (AP) — South Dakota's two U.S. senators have not yet decided whether to back President Barack Obama's proposed military strike against Syria, but the state's lone member of the House is leaning against approving such a move.

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The president is seeking congressional approval of a resolution authorizing limited strikes in retaliation for the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons in a rebel-held suburb of the Syrian capital of Damascus.

The Obama administration says 1,429 people died in a sarin gas attack by Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces on Aug. 21, while the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said its toll has reached 502. A U.N. inspection team has not yet completed its report.

Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., said she is skeptical that a limited strike will degrade the Syrian regime's capabilities. She said she needs to be convinced that military strikes would be the best option for U.S. national security interests.

"I care about America and protecting our country and believe that we simply can't afford to get into another war that could potentially produce a powder keg in the Middle East," Noem said Wednesday.

"Right now, I don't believe that this is the direction to go, and I don't support the president's plan. But I am willing to reserve judgment until we can have the discussion and see what this authorization resolution looks like," Noem said.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said the use of weapons of mass destruction raises U.S. national security concerns relating to Iran and the entire Middle East region.

"The use of these weapons warrants a response, and it is incumbent on the president to make the case to the American public that our intelligence is correct, that the objective is clearly defined, and that he has a plan to achieve the objective," Thune said. "I will withhold judgment on the resolution that eventually comes before the Senate until I have the opportunity to review the final authorization language."

Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., remains undecided on the issue.

"Sen. Johnson is reviewing the evidence that has been provided by the administration," said Johnson's communications director, Perry Plumart.

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