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Russia warns Obama


A man cries near the graves of his two children killed during a recent Syrian Air Force air strike in Azaz.

BEIRUT — Russia warned the West today against unilateral action on Syria, a day after US President Barack Obama threatened “enormous consequences” if his Syrian counterpart used chemical or biological arms or even moved them in a menacing way.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking after meeting China’s top diplomat, said Moscow and Beijing were committed to “the need to strictly adhere to the norms of international law … and not to allow their violation”.

Russia and China have opposed military intervention in Syria throughout a 17-month-old revolt against President Bashar al-Assad. They have vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions backed by Western and Arab states that would have put more pressure on Damascus to end violence that has cost 18,000 lives.

The United States and its allies have shown little appetite for military action in Syria, in contrast to last year’s NATO campaign that helped topple Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

But Obama used some of his strongest language yet yesterday to warn Assad not to cross a “red line” of even shifting unconventional weapons in a threatening manner.

Seeking re-election in November, Obama noted that he had refrained “at this point” from ordering US military engagement in Syria. But when he was asked at a White House news conference whether he might deploy forces, for example to secure Syrian chemical and biological weapons, he said his view could change.

“We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is (if) we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilised,” Obama said. “That would change my calculus.”

Syria last month acknowledged for the first time that it had chemical or biological weapons and said it could use them if foreign countries intervened. The threat drew strong warnings from Washington and its allies, although it is not clear how the Syrian armed forces might use such weapons in urban warfare.

“We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people,” Obama said, adding he was not certain the stockpile was secure. (Reuters)

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