Russia warns U.S. not to repeat in Syria past mistakes in region

Reuters — August 25, 2013

Russia warned the United States on Sunday against repeating past mistakes, saying that any unilateral military action in Syria would undermine efforts for peace and have a devastating impact on the security situation in the Middle East.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said its statement was a response to U.S. actions to give it the option of an armed strike against Syria.

It drew a parallel between reports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces had used chemical weapons and Washington’s 2003 intervention in Iraq following accusations by then-President George Bush’s administration that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s government possessed weapons of mass destruction.

“We once again decisively urge (the United States) not to repeat the mistakes of the past and not to allow actions that go against international law,” the ministry said.

“Any unilateral military action bypassing the United Nations will … lead to further escalation (in Syria) and will affect the already explosive situation in the Middle East in the most devastating way.”

Moscow said any military action would severely hamper joint U.S.-Russian efforts for an international peace conference to end a civil war that has killed more than 100,000 people.

“The threat to use force against the Syrian regime sends the (Syrian) opposition conflicting signals,” the ministry said. “All sponsors of the opposition, which have influence over it, must seek the fastest possible agreement from Bashar al-Assad’s opponents to hold talks.”

U.S. President Barack Obama met his security advisers on Saturday to debate options following reports of the alleged chemical attack. U.S. naval forces have been repositioned in the Mediterranean to give Washington the option of an armed strike.

Syria’s opposition accused Assad’s forces of gassing many hundreds of people – by one report as many as 1,300 – on Wednesday. Syria said earlier on Sunday it had agreed to let the experts visit the site.

Russia, which has suggested that Syrian rebels may have carried out the attack, also said on Sunday that assigning blame too soon over the alleged poison gas strike would be a “tragic mistake”, before a U.N. investigation on Monday.

(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Jon Boyle and Pravin Char)

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