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article imagePutin warns West on Syrian strike

By Layne Weiss     Sep 4, 2013 in World
Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned the United States against taking one-sided military action against Syria. He also said however, that under certain circumstances, Russia would consider supporting UN-sponsored military strikes against Syria.
These "circumstances" entail proof that Damascus did indeed use poisonous gas on its own people, The AP reports.
Days ago, Putin said it was "utter nonsense" that the Syrian government had chemical weapons.
Just a day later, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the US had evidence that the chemical nerve agent sarin was used in a deadly attack in Damscus on August 21.
The G20 Summit is set to begin September 5 in St. Petersburg. On Tuesday, Putin gave his last interview before the scheduled Summit. The G20 leaders were set to discuss the global economy, but it now appears focus will be completely set on alleged chemical weapon use in Syria.
During Putin's interview with the AP and Russia Channel 1 Tuesday, he said he was sorry that US President Obama canceled a one-on-one meeting in Moscow, which was supposed to take place before the Summit. He was hopeful, however, the two would be able to sit down in the future and have a serious discussion about Syria and other issues.
"President Obama hasn't been elected by the American people in order to be pleasant to Russia. And your humble servant hasn't been elected by the people of Russia to be pleasant to someone either," Putin said of their relationship.
"We work, we argue about some issues. We are human. Sometimes one of us gets vexed. But I would like to repeat once again that global mutual interests form a good basis for finding a joint solution to our problems," the Russian leader said.
Putin again stated how crazy it was that the Syrian government would use chemical weapons during this time.
"From our viewpoint, it seems absolutely absurd that the armed forces, the regular armed forces, which are on the offensive today and in some areas have encircled the so-called rebels and are finishing them off, that in these conditions they would start using forbidden chemical weapons while realizing quite well that it could serve as a pretext for applying sanctions against them, including the use of force," he said.
The Obama administration said August 30 that Syrian government forces killed 1,429 people in the chemical weapons attack August 21.
Putin's response: "If there are data that the chemical weapons have been used, and used specifically by the regular army, this evidence should be submitted to the U.N. Security Council," added Putin, a former officer in the Soviet KGB. "And it ought to be convincing. It shouldn't be based on some rumors and information obtained by special services through some kind of eavesdropping, some conversations and things like that."
He also noted that even in the US, not everyone is convinced by the Obama administration's "evidence."
He likened this evidence to the false data used by the Bush administration to convince Congress Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, which ultimately led to a war with Iraq.
Many in the US have called the war in Iraq a mistake. "Did we forget about that?" Putin said rhetorically, reminding everyone that the Bush administration's argument was untenable and so may be the Obama administration's.
Putin did want to make it clear however, that he "doesn't exclude" supporting military action against Syria at the UN if objective evidence proving the Assad regime used chemical weapons against its people is presented.
He firmly warned the US against striking without approval from the UN. He said it would "represent an aggression."
When asked what kind of evidence would convince Russia of chemical weapon use by the Assad regime, Putin answered: "It should be a deep and specific probe containing evidence that would be obvious and prove beyond doubt who did it and what means were used."
Putin also said it was far too early to discuss what Russia would do if the US attacked Syria.
"We have our ideas about what we will do and how we will do it in case the situation develops toward the use of force or otherwise," he said. "We have our plans."
Putin then mentioned the the S-300 air defense missile system, calling it a "very efficient weapon." He said that Russia had a contract to deliver S300s to Syria."We have supplied some of the components, but the delivery hasn't been completed. We have suspended it for now," he said.
He then changed his tone. "But if we see that steps are taken that violate the existing international norms, we shall think how we should act in the future, in particular regarding supplies of such sensitive weapons to certain regions of the world," he said.
A few years ago, Russia canceled a contract with Iran for the delivery of S300s under strong pressure from the US and Israel. Is this some sort of threat that Russia will consider reviving that contract if the US goes to war with Syria? Is Putin simply saying Russia would back Syria? Or is it just too early to tell since we don't know the circumstances?
Other topics such as the Olympics, Russian anti-gay laws, and Edward Snowden were also discussed.
Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have announced they are behind Obama's decision to take military action against Syria, NPR reports.
More about president Vladimir Putin, Syria, United States, US military action in Syria, Chemical weapons
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