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Associated Press , Published September 04 2013

ND delegation unsure about Syria military strike

BISMARCK — The three members of North Dakota's congressional delegation have not yet decided whether to support President Barack Obama's proposed military strike on Syria.

Obama is seeking congressional approval for limited strikes that his administration says would be in retaliation for the Syrian government's use of chemical weapons that killed hundreds of people in a Damascus suburb.

The administration says 1,429 died in the sarin gas attack by Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces last month, while the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says its toll has reached 502. Assad's government blames the episode on rebels. A United Nations inspection team has not yet completed its report.

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said if he had to vote now he would be inclined not to back Obama's request, but he wants to hear more from the president before making up his mind.

"When it comes to committing military assets I think it requires prudence," he said during a public forum in Minot on Tuesday, according to the Minot Daily News.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said he needs to see more of a plan from Obama before backing a military strike.

"I think he not only needs to get the Congress on board but the American people as well," Hoeven told The Bismarck Tribune.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said she also wants more information before deciding on her vote.

"Over the next week, I will be seeking more information from the administration on how potential strikes meet U.S. strategic needs, the end goal of them, and how they could impact our long-term standing in the Middle East," she said in a statement.

Heitkamp canceled events in North Dakota on Wednesday and Thursday to travel back to Washington, D.C., for briefings. Hoeven and Cramer don't plan to return to Washington until the August recess is over Monday. Hoeven said he already has participated in briefings. Cramer plans to attend a briefing on Monday.

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