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Russia: Dire 'consequences' if Syria is hit

27 August 2013, 16:08

Moscow - Russia on Tuesday warned a military intervention in Syria could have "catastrophic consequences" for the region and called on the international community to show "prudence" over the crisis.

"Attempts to bypass the Security Council, once again to create artificial groundless excuses for a military intervention in the region are fraught with new suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa," a foreign ministry spokesperson said.

"We are calling on our American partners and all members of the world community to demonstrate prudence [and] strict observance of international law, especially the fundamental principles of the UN Charter," ministry spokesperson Alexander Lukashevich said in a statement.

Earlier Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said that Moscow regretted Monday's decision by the US to postpone a meeting on the Syria crisis, as Western powers mulled military action over last week's chemical attack in Syria.

The scrapping of the meeting, which was due to take place at The Hague later in the week, is the latest sign of a new peak in tensions between Moscow and the West over the possibility of military strikes against President Bashar Assad's government.

"It arouses regret that our partners decided to cancel the bilateral meeting" involving senior diplomats from both sides, Gatilov said on Twitter.

"Working out the parameters of a political solution in Syria would have been especially helpful right now, when military action is hanging over this country," Gatilov said.

Flawed intelligence

In such a climate, it was especially important to work in concert to try to organise the repeatedly postponed peace conference bringing together the Damascus regime and the rebels, Lukashevich said.

"However, the United States' decision to postpone the meeting in The Hague is sending precisely the opposite signal to the opposition, encouraging their intransigence as they await outside intervention," he said.

Lukashevich said convening the peace conference was now a "most urgent task".

Western countries including the United States are considering their response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in eastern Damascus on August 21.

Russia has said it believes rebels were behind the incident and has warned any military action without UN approval would violate international law.

On Monday Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov condemned the "hysteria" over the claimed chemical attack and said the West had yet to come up with proof that Assad's government was behind it.

He also said Russia would not get involved in a military conflict in Syria.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told British Prime Minister David Cameron in a telephone call on Monday there was no evidence yet that the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons against rebels, Cameron's office said.

Pro-Kremlin Russian newspaper Izvestia on Monday published an interview with Assad who ridiculed as "nonsense" the idea his regime used chemical weapons and warned the United States of failure if it attacked Syria.

Russian officials are now comparing the possible use of force against Syria to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, which was vehemently opposed by Moscow as based on flawed intelligence that Saddam Hussein's regime possessed weapons of mass destruction.

"Deja-vu," Alexei Pushkov, the head of the Russian parliament's foreign affairs committee wrote on Twitter.

"It feels like in the White House it’s still [George W] Bush, [Dick] Cheney and [Donald] Rumsfeld and in Downing Street Tony Blair," he said, referring to the former US president, vice president, defence secretary and British premier during the Iraq war.

"The faces change. But not the politics," he added.



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