Assad thanks Russia, Nato says military option still open

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Assad thanks Russia, Nato says military option still open

Syrian President Bashar Al Assad on Wednesday thanked key backer Russia for helping his regime face down a “savage attack” by Western-backed rebels even as Nato said that the threat of military action should remain on the table to make Syria keep its promises on giving up chemical weapons.

By (AFP)

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Published: Wed 18 Sep 2013, 7:32 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 6:06 PM

Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen speaks to the media after a meeting with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron in London on Wednesday. -AP

Russia is helping “create... a new global balance”, Assad said, after Moscow opposed the use of force should the Damascus regime refuse to abide by an agreement to hand over its chemical weapons stockpile.

Assad’s statement came during a meeting with Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov.

“President Assad expressed... his gratitude to Russia for its position of helping Syria face down the savage attack... and the Western, regional and Arab-backed terrorism,” he said, using the regime’s term for the armed revolt in the country.

“Russia’s positions on the Syrian crisis create hope of a new global balance,” he added.

Ryabkov, who flew in to Damascus on Tuesday, accused UN inspectors investigating chemical attacks in Syria of being “biased and one-sided”.

Russia has received “evidence that the rebels are implicated in the chemical attack,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti and ITAR-TASS news agencies.

Meanwhile, France on Wednesday rejected the claim that the UN report was biased.

“Nobody can question the objectivity of the people (inspectors) appointed by the UN,” Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told a Press conference, adding that he was “very surprised” by Russia’s assertion.

Damascus flatly denies using chemical weapons against opposition areas, and instead blames rebels for such attacks.

Speaking after a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron in London, Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen welcomed the recent US-Russian agreement under which the Assad regime says it will give up its poison gas stocks.

But Rasmussen said: “I would expect the Syrian regime to fully comply with the demands of the international community and in the case of non-compliance we will need a very firm international response.”

“I do believe that the credible threat of military action was the reason why diplomacy got a chance and I think in order to keep momentum in the diplomatic and political process the military option should still be on the table,” he told reporters in Downing Street.

The alliance chief said it was “crucial that the UN Security Council expeditiously adopts a firm resolution that can constitute the framework for a swift, secure and verifiable elimination of all chemical weapons in Syria”.

Rasmussen said the use of chemical weapons “is a crime, is a violation of international law and those responsible must be held accountable”.

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