Putin says would be "utter nonsense" for Assad to use chemical arms

VLADIVOSTOK, Russia Sat Aug 31, 2013 4:57pm IST

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting during his visit to Khabarovsk August 29, 2013. REUTERS/Aleksey Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting during his visit to Khabarovsk August 29, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Aleksey Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

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VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (Reuters) - Russia's President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday it would be "utter nonsense" for the Syrian government to use chemical weapons when it was winning its war with rebels, and urged U.S. President Barack Obama not to attack Syrian forces.

The United States said on Friday it was planning a limited military response to punish Syria's President Bashar al-Assad for a "brutal and flagrant" chemical weapons attack it says killed more than 1,400 people in Damascus 10 days ago.

Putin told journalists that if Obama had evidence Assad's forces had the chemical weapons and launched the attack, Washington should present it to the U.N. weapons inspectors and the Security Council.

"I am convinced that it (the chemical attack) is nothing more than a provocation by those who want to drag other countries into the Syrian conflict, and who want to win the support of powerful members of the international arena, especially the United States," Putin said.

The Russian president said Obama, as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, should remember the impact any U.S. attack would have on Syrian civilians.

World powers should discuss the Syrian crisis at a meeting of the leaders of the Group of 20 developed and developing nations in St. Petersburg next week, he added. "This (G20 summit) is a good platform to discuss the problem. Why not use it?" Putin said.

(Reporting by Denis Dyomkin; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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