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Obama says Syrian chemical weapons offer could prevent strike

President Obama said Monday it was "possible" for Syria to avert a military strike if it agrees to turn over its chemical weapons.

"It's possible if it's real," Obama told CNN in one of six network interviews he taped on Monday. 

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"And, you know, I think it's certainly a positive development when, uh, the Russians and the Syrians both make gestures toward dealing with these chemical weapons. This is what we've been asking for not just over the last week or the last month, but for the last couple of years."

The president added that it was his "preference" to "accomplish this limited goal without taking military action."

On PBS, he added that he had discussed the possibility of Suyria's weaons being placed under international control with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

"This is a continuation of conversations I've had with President Putin for some time," he said.

All of Obama's interviews were dominated by questions about Syria's offer on Monday to turn over its chemical weapons to international control .

Syria made the offer at the urging of Russia, which seized on comments Secretary of State John Kerry made Monday that this would be a way for Syria to avoid a U.S. strike. 

Obama has asked Congress to approve a strike on Syria, but the House appears set against him and it is not clear if he could prevail in the Senate. 

Obama conceded Monday in the interview with NBC that he “wouldn't say I'm confident” that he would win votes in Congress on authorizing a strike on Syria.

He said he was engaging with lawmakers ahead of an Oval Office address Tuesday night to the nation. 

“And I'll evaluate after that whether or not we feel strongly enough about this that we're willing to move forward,” he said. “And I've made my decision about what I think is best for America's national interests, but this is one where I think it's important for me to play close attention to what Congress and the American people say.”

It's unclear when the Senate or House will vote on authorization for a military strike. 

The Senate had been poised to take a procedural vote on Wednesday, but that vote was postponed Monday evening by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) — possibly as a result of the Russian and Syrian entreaty. 

The White House has been actively lobbying Congress for suppport.

Some 70 House members and senators were expected at the White House to discuss Syria on Monday.

Vice President Biden also hosted separate briefings for groups of Senate Republicans and Senate Democrats in the Situation Room.

GOP Sens. John Thune (S.D.), Dan Coats (Ind.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Pat Toomey (Pa.) and Thad Chochran (Miss.) were spotted by a CNN camera entering the West Wing. According to The Hill's whip list, all five Republicans remain undecided and could serve as pivotal swing votes.

Separately, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough hosted groups of House Democrats and Republicans at the executive mansion.

On Capitol Hill, the House Armed Services and Intelligence committees were briefed by senior administration officials in the afternoon, ahead of a full-House briefing by Secretary of State John Kerry in the early evening. The White House said Monday afternoon that in total it had provided classified briefings to at least 185 lawmakers.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also weighed in with her first public comments, saying it would be an “important step” if Syria surrendered its chemical weapons.

Clinton phoned Sens. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) over the weekend in a bid to rally support, according to CNN. Pryor has said he would vote against military action, while Schumer is supportive.

Obama faces an uphill climb. An ABC News / Washington Post poll released Monday showed nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose military air strikes. And there's little evidence the president's appeals are working; the number who say the U.S. should not act has increased 5 percentage points from a week ago.

This story was posted at 6:03 p.m and updated at 6:32 p.m.