Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is interviewed by CBS and PBS anchor Charlie Rose in a photo released on Monday. CBS/Reuters
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has warned the United States against striking his country and denied using chemical weapons against his own people, as President Barack Obama embarked on a media campaign Monday to push for air strikes on Syria and Congress reconvened from its summer recess.
In a CBS interview, his first with an American television network in two years, Assad said an attack by international forces may prompt retaliation from Syria's allies. He also denied using chemical weapons attack on Syrians, adding that evidence was not conclusive that there had been such an attack last month.
"There has been no evidence that I used chemical weapons against my own people," CBS on Sunday quoted Assad as saying in an interview conducted by Charlie Rose in Damascus.
Involvement in the Syrian war runs against the interests of the United States, Assad added during the CBS News interview. He also warned about "repercussions" if the U.S. strkes Syria: "Expect every action," he said.
The full interview will be broadcast Monday night, and will be juxtaposed against a spate of interviews by Obama as he pushes for the authorization of air strikes in Syria. Obama will tape interviews with six media networks, including PBS, CNN and FOX News.
In a surprise move, meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that Moscow will push Syria to place its chemical weapons under international control to help avert a possible U.S. attack.
"If the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in that country would allow avoiding strikes, we will immediately start working with Damascus," Lavrov said.
Lavrov said he conveyed the idea to his Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Moualem, who later said he welcomed the Russian proposal.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, when asked whether there were steps Syria could take to avoid a U.S. strike, he said Assad could "turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week," but expressed skepticism that such a thing would actually happen. Kerry later clarified to Lavrov that his comments were rhetorical.
United Nation's Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said he is considering asking the Security Council to demand that Syria transfer its chemical weapons stockpiles to "safe sites" in Syria where they could be stored and later destroyed. Ban said the Security Council suffered from "embarrassing paralysis" on Syria and needs to overcome the deadlock.
The U.S. has said it has intelligence showing that the Assad regime is responsible for the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack, which it says killed more than 1,400 people, including at least 426 children.
Obama has slowed his march toward intervention, saying he would seek congressional authorization in response to a growing outcry from the body for consultation.
Efforts by Obama and Kerry to build an international coalition in support of air strikes in Syria have been seemingly unsuccessful, at least in the short-term.
Kerry was in Europe over the weekend pleading the case for greater backing from world leaders for the proposed strikes.
At a press conference Monday with British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Kerry said he understood the fears Americans have of repeating the Iraq war, but said "the risk of not acting is greater than the risk of acting."
He said the chemical weapons are under the tight control of Assad himself, his brother Mahar and an unspecified general.
Earlier Monday, in Moscow, Russian and Syrian diplomats urged the U.S. to focus on convening a peace conference to end the civil war instead of taking military action against Assad's government.
"We are in Moscow at a time when the war drums are being beaten, the war drums of the goverment of the United States," Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem said before talks with Russia's Lavrov.
Lavrov, whose country says it believes rebels are responsible for the chemical attack on civilians, warned that U.S. strikes could lead to the spread of terrorism.
Click for Al Jazeera's special coverage of the conflict in Syria
Obama has acknowledged that he will face a "heavy lift" to win congressional support. According to a recent count by The Washington Post, the House appears to be leaning away from authorizing a strike. The count shows that there are 223 members of Congress in the "no" or "leaning no" categories -- more than the 217 needed to sink a vote.
In the Senate, however, the odds seem to be better. A majority of the senators are undecided. Fifteen senators have expressed opposition to intervention, and 10 are leaning toward saying no, according to the Washington Post.