- The Washington Times - Friday, September 6, 2013

As U.S. and Russian officials continue trading barbs at this week’s G-20 Summit in Saint Petersburg, any remaining hope that President Obama would leave the gathering with an international consensus on Syria have faded away.

The White House now says it’s looking for “expressions of support and strong statements” from G-20 countries that believe Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons — an indication that there is more than one nation at the summit that doesn’t share that view.

Mr. Obama met Friday with Chinese President Xi Jinping, another nation opposed to military intervention in Syria.

“The fact of the matter is China, too, has been unwilling to support action through the [United Nations] Security Council. But to be candid, this is one of those issues where Russia really is in the lead in terms of its support for the Assad regime,” said Ben Rhodes, the White House’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.

Mr. Rhodes’ comments underscore the ongoing tension between Mr. Obama and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. The two nations have in recent days blasted one another, with Mr. Putin saying that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is “lying” about the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons.

The dust-up has subsequently been attributed to a translation error.

Mr. Rhodes fired back at Mr. Putin on Friday, saying Russia appears dead-set on supporting Assad no matter what the embattled Syrian leader does to his own people.

“Russia has repeatedly refused to hold the Assad regime accountable for any of its actions over the course of the last few years,” he said.

Mr. Obama also is meeting with French President Francois Hollande on Friday, one of only a handful of world leaders backing U.S. action in Syria.

Mr. Obama also will hold a press conference just before he departs Saint Petersburg.

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