- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 4, 2013

President Vladimir Putin said the Russia isn’t completely ruling out intervention in Syria, if it’s proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that President Bashar Assad unleashed chemical weapons on rebel fighters — but that notion is just ridiculous, he said.

“From our viewpoint, it seems absolutely absurd that the armed forces, the regular armed forces, which are on the offensive today and in some areas have encircled the so-called rebels and are finishing them off, that in these conditions they would start using forbidden chemical weapons while realizing quite well that it could serve as a pretext for applying sanctions against them, including the use of force,” Mr. Putin said, in a Tuesday interview at his home with The Associated Press.

The United States has determined that Mr. Assad did use chemical weapons to attack forces outside Damascus on Aug. 21, killing 1,429 people, including civilians. A team of U.N. inspectors is still awaiting soil samples before issuing a decision. Meanwhile, Mr. Assad has steadfastly denied he used chemical weapons.

Mr. Putin also warned the United States about attacking Syria, or using any military force against the nation, before the United Nations wraps its investigation.

“If there are data that the chemical weapons have been used, and used specifically by the regular army, this evidence should be submitted to the U.N. Security Council,” he said, in the AP report.

“And it ought to be convincing. It shouldn’t be based on some rumors and information obtained by special services through some kind of eavesdropping, some conversations and things like that.”

SEE ALSO: Syria creates a Russian safe zone, civilian danger zones

He said that while Russia “doesn’t exclude” the backing of force in Syria if the United Nations determines chemical weapons were used by Mr. Assad — beyond a shadow of doubt — he also warned that the United States should not act alone and doing so would be tantamount to an act of aggression.

The United States needs approval to strike from the Security Council, he said.

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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