Putin demands proof of chemical attack

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DAMASCUS: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday struck a more conciliatory tone ahead of this week’s G20 summit, saying Moscow would take “decisive” action if the West proved who used chemical weapons in Syria.

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Putin, in an interview apparently aimed at presenting a more pragmatic face to the world ahead of the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg, said he did not exclude Russia agreeing to US-led military strikes if it was proven Syria’s regime had carried out the August 21 attack.

But, he told state-run Channel One television, the West still needed to put forward watertight proof of the circumstances of the attack, which some Russian officials have blamed on rebels.

If there was clear proof of what weapons were used and who used them, Russia “will be ready to act in the most decisive and serious way,” Putin said.

Asked whether Russia would agree with US-led military strikes if it was proven that the Syrian regime had carried out the attack, Putin replied: “I do not exclude that.”

But he said it would be unacceptable for the West to go ahead with military action against the regime of Bashar al-Assad without the assent of the UN Security Council, where Russia has veto-wielding permanent membership.

Since the start of the Syrian conflict, the United States has frequently lamented Moscow’s support for President Bashar al-Assad and its decision to block any UN Security Council action to censure him or to use military action against his regime.

With relations between the Kremlin and the White House considered as brittle as they have been since the end of the Cold War, there are no plans for Obama and Putin to meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

But the Russian leader’s latest comments may at least help the leaders maintain a modicum of cordiality when they are forced to interact at leaders’ meetings and public photo ops.

Obama’s aides have said the US leader will use the summit to try to lobby international support for his strategy for a “proportional” military response.

The Syrian opposition meanwhile said it feared a fresh chemical attack by the Assad regime after spotting three convoys of vehicles believed to be filled with such arms.

The Syrian army had also retaken control of the strategic town of Ariha in northwest Syria after 10 days of intense bombing and clashes, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

AFP

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