(changes dateline, re-ledes with Senate cmte. vote)

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved on Wednesday a bill that would authorize President Barack Obama to order attacks on Syria to punish Damascus for its alleged use of chemical weapons against rebels.

The measure, which passed the committee by a vote of 10-7 with one abstention, is likely to be considered by the full Senate next week.

The text that won approval places a 60-day limit on military action - extendable by 30 days absent congressional objections - and bars the deployment of ground forces for combat.

At the insistence of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the committee added a non-binding statement to the effect that Washington seeks to alter the momentum of the Syrian conflict to foster a negotiated settlement conducive to the establishment of democracy.

Most observers see President Bashar Assad's forces as having the upper hand in the civil war, which has claimed some 100,000 lives since March 2011.

The Syrian government denies using chemical weapons.

Russia has not ruled out accepting a military attack on Assad's regime if it is proven that chemical weapons were used against the Syrian people, President Vladimir Putin said in an interview released by the Kremlin on Wednesday.

"I have not ruled it out," Putin said in a joint interview with Russia's Channel 1 and a U.S. wire service.

The Russian president, however, said only the U.N. Security Council could authorize the use of military force against a sovereign country since all other actions were "unacceptable and can only be labeled aggression."

Russia will take a position based on the principle that "the use of weapons of mass destruction is a crime," Putin said.

"But this raises other questions. If it is demonstrated that the guerrillas used chemical weapons, what will the United States do with the guerrillas? What will the guerrillas' sponsors do? Will they stop supplying arms to them? Will they launch military operations against them? Putin asked.

Obama said last Saturday he had decided on "military action" against Syria but would seek congressional approval first. EFE