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Bashar Assad PA/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Putin: Idea of Assad using chemical weapons is 'utter nonsense'

The Russian president said it would be “utter nonsense” for the Assad regime to hand a “trump card” to those calling for military intervention.

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR Putin has demanded proof that Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria has used chemical weapons against its own people.

Speaking to reporters in Vladivostok today, the long-time ally of Damascus said that common sense speaks for itself.

“Syrian government troops are on the offensive and have surrounded the opposition in several regions. In these conditions, to give a trump card to those who are calling for a military intervention is utter nonsense.”

His remarks come after the US released an intelligence report blaming the regime for a chemical attack on the 21 August which killed up to 1,450 citizens, including many children.

“Regarding the position of our American colleagues, friends, who affirm that government troops used weapons of mass destruction, in this case chemical weapons, and say that they have proof, well, let them show it to the United Nations inspectors and the Security Council,” he continued.

Saying that such evidence is classified “does not stand up to criticism,” Putin added. “It’s outward disrespect toward partners and world actors. If there is evidence, it must be presented. If they don’t show it, that means there is none.”

Talk that these are once again some kind of intercepts of some kind of communications that don’t prove anything cannot be used as a basis for such fundamental decisions like using force against a sovereign state.

Russia has said it will block any suggestion of the UN Security Council giving a green light to military intervention. As a permanent member, it has the power to veto any proposal.

Other updates

As the situation in Syria continues to unfold at dramatic pace, the Arab League is set to meet tomorrow to discuss the crisis.

The gathering, initially scheduled for Tuesday, has been brought forward “in light of rapid developments” and on the request of several neighbouring states, said deputy chief Ahmed Ben Helli.

The Arab League was one of the first entities to point the finger of blame at Assad over the chemical attack in the capital’s suburb earlier this month.

Permanent representatives condemned the “horrible crime carried out with internationally prohibited chemical weapons” and put the “entire responsibility” on President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

As the diplomatic discussions continue, the humanitarian crisis on the ground worsens. Earlier today, scores of Syrian asylum seeks landed in southern Italy.


The convoy of UN experts, who were investigating the alleged use of chemical weapons, cross into Lebanon. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)

What next?

Syria has said it expects a military attack “at any moment”, claiming to be ready to retaliate.

The departure of a UN team of chemical weapons inspectors this morning has heightened expectation of a US-led strike.

The team are due to arrive in The Hague where they will be assisted in their probe but a report is not expected for another two weeks.

A spokesperson for the UN said everything will be done to expedite the process but the team “also have to keep in mind something else which is the need for rigorous attention to maintaining the integrity of the process, in other words, the scientific side of this process”.

“We have to be very clear here that before the mission can draw any conclusions about this incident, the evaluation of all available information including the laboratory analysis of all samples must be completed.”

Once complete, a report will be given to Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon who will share it will the Security Council and all Member States. There has been no timeline given by the UN for the completion of the probe or report.

Additional reporting by AFP

Earlier: UN chemical weapons inspectors leave Syria

More: President Obama says no decision has been made on Syria but insists world must act

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