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The president’s announcement Aug. 31 that he would seek congressional authorization for U.S. military strikes against Syria was followed by the cancellation of a vote last week and the pursuit of a diplomatic plan led by the Russians.

The diplomatic effort with the Russians, Mr. Obama said, has a good chance of achieving his original objective of preventing another gas attack like the one Aug. 21 that killed more than 1,000 Syrians.

“My entire goal throughout this exercise is to make sure what happened on Aug. 21 does not happen again,” Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Obama defended the administration’s handling of Syria, saying his actions might not have looked “smooth and disciplined and linear,” but he is getting results on disarming the Assad regime of its chemical weapons.