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Putin Backs Proposal For Dialog With US Lawmakers On Syria Solution

9/3/2013 3:49 AM ET

President Vladimir Putin has backed a proposal by Russian lawmakers to initiate dialog with their U.S. counterparts to resolve the Syria situation without the use of force.

The proposal was mooted by heads of both Houses of the Russian Parliament at a Monday meeting with Putin, who termed it as "very timely" and expressed the hope that it would give U.S. lawmakers "a better feel and understanding of the Russian position," reports from Moscow said.

"Indeed, in order to better understand each other, there is no other way but a direct and open dialog with arguments and with the presentation of positions," Putin is reported to have said at the meeting.

The initiative, announced by Upper House Speaker Valentina Matviyenko, includes a plan to invite U.S. senators and Representatives to Moscow in the context of continued saber-rattling rhetorics by U.S. leaders over the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime in the ongoing civil war in Syria. "It is unacceptable to use force without a U.N. sanction and without a good reason," Matviyenko was quoted by Russia's RIA Novosti news agency as saying.

Putin assured the Russian lawmakers that he would do all he could to facilitate such bilateral talks.

The United States has held the Assad regime responsible for a suspected chemical attack that purportedly killed hundreds of civilians in a Damascus suburb late last month. The Syrian government has consistently denied the allegation.

Meanwhile, a senior Russian lawmaker said on Tuesday that by redeploying the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz and four other ships, the United States was showing its determination to start a military campaign in Syria.

"By sending the Nimitz nuclear aircraft carrier to Syria's shores, Obama demonstrates that the military action has been postponed, but not canceled, and that he is determined to start a war," said Alexei Pushkov, who heads the International Affairs Committee in the Lower House of the Russian Parliament, the State Duma.

While President Barack Obama formally requested the U.S. Congress to approve a military operation in Syria, his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad compared the situation in his strife-torn country to "a barrel of gunpowder, to which a fire is approaching."

"Nobody knows what would happen [after the U.S. strike]. Everyone will lose control of the situation when this gunpowder barrel explodes. Chaos and extremism will spread, and there is a risk that the whole region will plunge into a war," he said.

There were also reports that Lebanon's Shia militant outfit Hezbollah, a close ally of the Assad regime, has been mobilizing and redeploying its forces to prepare for a potential U.S. military action.

According to the U.N., more than 100,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the Syrian uprising that began in March 2011 against the much- despised regime of Assad whose family ruled the Middle East country for more than four decades. Nearly two million Syrians have been driven as refugees into neighboring countries like Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon, besides millions displaced internally.

by RTT Staff Writer

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