Tit-for-tat: Obama threatens Syria invasion so Russia goes on the offensive
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
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Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has warned the West not to take unilateral action on Syria, saying that Russia and China agree that violations of international law and the United Nations charter are impermissible.
Russia and China have opposed military intervention in Syria throughout 17 months of bloodshed and have vetoed three U.N. Security Council resolutions backed by Western and Arab states that would raise pressure on Damascus to end violence.
Lavrov, cited by Russian news agencies at a meeting with China’s top diplomat, was speaking a day after U.S. , in some of his strongest language yet, said U.S. forces could move against President Bashar al-Assad if he deploys chemical weapons against rebels trying to overthrow him.
Russia and China base their diplomatic cooperation on “the need to strictly adhere to the norms of international law and the principles contained in the U.N. Charter, and not to allow their violation,” Interfax quoted Lavrov as saying at a meeting with Chinese State Councillor Dai Bingguo.
“I think this is the only correct path in today’s conditions,” Lavrov said.
Obama put Assad’s regime on notice Monday that although he had not ordered military intervention “at this point,” the United States was “monitoring the situation very carefully,” and had drawn up contingency plans.
“There would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons... That would change my calculations significantly,” he told reporters at the White House.
Obama -- who has repeatedly called for Assad to stand down as the conflict intensified -- said the United States would regard any recourse by Damascus to its deadly arsenal as crossing a “red line”.
Syria’s admission in July that it has chemical weapons and could use them in case of any “external aggression” added a dangerous new dimension to a conflict that began as a peaceful uprising but has descended into a bitter armed revolt.
On Tuesday, Syrian forces shelled districts in the battered city of Aleppo, killing nine civilians, among them women and children, and pounded the nearby towns of Marea and Tall Rifaat, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Local Coordination Committees -- a network of opposition activists on the ground -- said warplanes were also striking Marea, causing casualties when one building collapsed.
“Residents are trying to pull out the martyrs and the wounded from the rubble,” the LCC said.
Aleppo, the main northern city which lies near the Turkish border, has borne the brunt of the conflict since fighting erupted there a month ago, with the regime warning it would be the scene of the “mother of all battles”.
Tuesday’s violence followed a bloody day in which 167 people were killed across Syria, the Observatory said, with no letup in the bloodshed as Muslims celebrated the Eid al-Fitr holiday which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
The LCC also reported heavy artillery shelling from tanks at a checkpoint in Jdaidet Artuz, southwest of the capital and said warplanes were firing from mounted machineguns on the suburbs of al-Hajar al-Aswad and Babila.
Syria’s popular uprising has spiraled into an all-out armed conflict between rebel fighters and regime forces with more than 23,000 people killed, according to the Observatory. The United Nations puts the death toll at 17,000.
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