A top lawmaker in Vladimir Putin's United Russia party on Friday accused the Obama administration of fabricating evidence that the forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad have used chemical weapons in Syria.
Alexei Pushkov, the head of the international affairs panel in the lower house of Parliament, compared the claims to President George W. Bush's incorrect assessment about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, according to Russia's RIA Novosti.
“Information about the usage of chemical weapons by Assad is fabricated in the same way as the lie about [Saddam] Hussein's weapons of mass destruction,” Pushkov said on Twitter. He went on to say that Obama was “going the same way” as Bush.
The comments suggest Russia won't be persuaded by the Obama administration's evidence, potentially endangering a U.S.-Russian last-ditch peace conference scheduled for next month.
Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes said the White House would retaliate by providing “military support” for the rebels and strongly suggested that support would include weapons.
Rhodes said the Russians were briefed prior to Thursday's announcement.
“I should say that we have briefed this chemical weapons information to the Russians, so we have already provided them with our assessment of the use of chemical weapons,” he told reporters in a conference call. “And we believe that Russia and all members of the international community should be concerned about the use of chemical weapons anywhere in the world given the norms that are established against it.”
Obama is expected to make his case directly to Putin when the two leaders meet during the G8 summit in Ireland next week.
“We’ll be consulting with Russia at the G8 and at the United Nations going forward,” Rhodes said, “and once again making the case that continuing to provide support to the Assad regime without applying the necessary pressure to help achieve an end to this violence is not in the interest of the international community.”
The Kremlin has long supported the Assad regime by providing it with
arms and vetoing U.S.-backed resolutions at the United Nations calling
for more sanctions.
Russia is worried about losing its navy's only access point to the Mediterranean, the Syrian port of Tartus, and about Islamist radicals taking power in Syria if Assad falls.
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