Syria rebels behind chemical attack: Putin
AFPRussian President Vladimir Putin has argued that Syrian rebels were behind a chemical weapons attack which prompted the United States to threaten military strikes against Bashar Al-Assad's regime.
September 12, 2013, 2:11 pm TWN
Writing in a New York Times opinion piece released late Wednesday, he suggested they had carried out the attack to provoke foreign military intervention in their favour.
Putin made the allegation on the eve of high-level talks in Geneva between US and Russian diplomats.
In a demonstration of the vast gulf between the US and Russian positions, Putin said Assad's opponents were responsible for the August 21 attack in Ghouta.
The United States says the attack left more than 1,400 people dead.
President Barack Obama has pushed for military action against Syria following the attack, which the US, its allies and several independent monitors have said was carried out by Syrian government forces.
"No one doubts that poison gas was used in Syria," Putin wrote.
"But there is every reason to believe it was not used by the Syrian Army but by opposition forces, to provoke intervention by their powerful foreign patrons, who would be siding with the fundamentalists."
Putin's commentary appeared as US Secretary of State John Kerry headed to Geneva for talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on a proposal to make Syria give up its chemical weapons.
Putin meanwhile warned that any US military strike on Syria which took place without United Nations approval would undermine the global body and risk triggering a wider regional conflict.
Such military action would "result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria's borders," Putin wrote.