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Syria debate hits close to home for Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd L) and first lady Michelle Obama (R ) arrive with their daughters Sasha (L) and Malia in Dakar, June 26, 20
U.S. President Barack Obama (2nd L) and first lady Michelle Obama (R ) arrive with their daughters Sasha (L) and Malia in Dakar, June 26, 20

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's soul searching about possible military force against Syria has included consultation not only with international allies and Congress but perhaps his most important sounding board - his family.

The disclosure came out of a series of television interviews that Obama gave on Monday in which he welcomed a Russian diplomatic offer as a potential breakthrough that could head off a U.S. military strike against Syria in response to an August 21 chemical weapons attack.

Obama suggested he had discussed Syria with wife Michelle and other family members.

Obama, asked in a PBS interview whether it was possible to change Americans' minds about use of force, said he was not sure that "we're ever going to get a majority of the American people" because of weariness of war. Majorities of Americans have told pollsters they oppose action.

"And that's understandable. You know, if you talk to my own family members, or Michelle's, you know, they're very wary and suspicious of any action," Obama said.

He had a similar comment for NBC, saying, "If you ask somebody, if you ask Michelle, 'Do we want to be involved in another war?' The answer is no."

Obama has engaged in a great deal of introspection over Syria in the past couple of weeks.

There was his 45-minute walkabout on the White House grounds on August 30 with his chief of staff, Denis McDonough, during which he revealed he would seek congressional authorization for a strike.

Then there was his two-hour discussion that same day with his inner circle, top aides who were surprised by his decision to go to Congress. Some disagreed with him.

Last week, Obama engaged in extensive discussions with G20 leaders at a summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, about Syria. Some agreed with him on the need for force while some did not.

First elected in 2008 in part on a pledge to end the Iraq war, Obama has been careful not to get the United States ensnared in a new war while winding down the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Still, he has shown no hesitancy in using armed drones to attack targets believed connected to al Qaeda or its affiliates. He ordered the mission in which al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in his Pakistan hideout in 2011.

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Alistair Bell and Bill Trott)

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