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Russia: Bullying US wants to force war

Minister claims US is 'beginning to blackmail us' over Syria strike

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned on Sunday that the United States was trying to blackmail Russia during negotiations over Syria's chemical weapons.

Mr Lavrov said the West had only agreed to discussions so it could force through a UN resolution that would open the way to military action.

"Our American partners are beginning to blackmail us," he warned.

"They see in the US-Russian deal not a chance to save the planet from significant quantities of chemical weapons in Syria, but a chance to do what Russia and China will not allow, namely to push through a resolution involving the threat of force against the regime and shielding the opposition."

Mr Lavrov said any resolution under Chapter Seven - which authorises the use of force - flew in the face of his agreement with US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Mr Lavrov claimed the US was threatening to stop work on the chemical disarmament deal unless Russia supported a security council resolution allowing the use of force.

But he said that Russia was ready to send troops to protect weapons inspectors.

"An international presence is needed on the perimeters of areas where the experts will work," he said.

"We are willing to send our troops and military police to participate.

"But I do not think that there is a need for a major contingent."

President Bashar al-Assad's government has handed over information about its chemical arsenal to a UN-backed weapons watchdog, meeting the first deadline of the ambitious US-Russia accord that the security council is due to endorse in coming days.

There had been hopes that a deal on chemical weapons could pave the way for peace talks to end the civil war.

But such hopes have been greeted with open hostility by the Syrian opposition, which will not move past the mandatory removal of Mr Assad as a precondition for talks.

Mr Assad told China state broadcaster CCTV that China and Russia "are playing a positive role in the security council to ensure any excuse for military action against Syria will not stand."


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