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Russia warns US not to attack Syria

Russia warns US about the consequences of attacking Syria in order to punish it for using chemical weapons. The US and is allies are drafting plans for an attack, apparently giving little heed to Russia's warning.

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"The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard, it is inexcusable.

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"And despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable."

How such an intervention, likely to be limited to some form of air strike, would affect the course of Syria's civil war is far from clear. Obama, Cameron and French President Francois Hollande face tough questions on how far they want to use force to achieve a long-stated common goal of forcing Assad from power.

Turmoil in Egypt, whose 2011 uprising inspired Syrians to rebel, has underlined the unpredictability of revolutions. And the presence of Islamist militants, including allies of al Qaeda in the Syrian rebel ranks, has given Western leaders pause. They have held back so far from helping Assad's opponents to victory.

Russia, a major arms supplier to Assad, has said rebels may have released the gas and warned against attacking Syria. Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov criticised Washington for cancelling bilateral talks on Syria that were set for Wednesday.

"Working out the political parameters for a resolution in Syria would be exceptionally useful now, when the threat of force hangs over this country," Gatilov wrote on Twitter.

REGIONAL CONFLICT

The Syrian conflict has split the Middle East along sectarian lines. Shi'ite Muslim Iran has supported Assad and his Alawite minority against mainly Sunni rebels, some of them Islamists, who have backing from Gulf Arab states.

In Tehran, a foreign ministry spokesman said: "We want to strongly warn against any military attack in Syria. There will definitely be perilous consequences for the region.

"These complications and consequences will not be restricted to Syria. It will engulf the whole region."

Syrian foreign minister Moualem, who insisted the government was trying to help the U.N. inspection team, told a news conference in Damascus that Syria would hit back if attacked.

"We have means of defending ourselves, and we will surprise them with these if necessary," he said. "If we face aggression, we will defend ourselves. We will not hesitate to use any means available. But I will not specify what those would be."

Assad's forces made little or no response to three attacks by Israeli aircraft earlier this year which Israeli officials said disrupted arms flowing from Iran to Lebanon's Hezbollah.

China, which has joined Moscow in vetoing measures against Assad in the U.N. Security Council, is also sceptical of Western readiness to use force to interfere with what it sees as the internal affairs of other countries. Beijing's official news agency ran a commentary on Tuesday recalling the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 on the grounds that it possessed banned weapons - which were never found.

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