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Russia Warns Military Strike Would Destabilize Syria, Region



Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is warning against military intervention in Syria, saying an attack would destabilize the country and the region.

Lavrov stressed the need for a political solution in a telephone call with U.N.-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday the diplomats agreed that all parties inside and outside Syria must act responsibly.

Brahimi has been working for a year to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis, which since March 2011 has left more than 100,000 people dead and millions more displaced.

He is due to brief reporters on the situation in Syria later Wednesday.

Western powers are weighing how to respond to what they say was clearly an attack by Syrian forces using chemical weapons in the suburbs of Damascus last week that killed hundreds of people.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem reiterated Tuesday his country's denial that it carried out a chemical attack and challenged the United States and its European allies to show evidence.



He said Syria's opponents are using the allegations as an excuse to attack, and vowed to strike back.

The Arab League has also condemned the alleged attack, blaming the Syrian government and demanding those responsible be put on trial.

A team of U.N. chemical weapons inspectors visited one of the attack sites on Monday and collected samples from victims. The investigators plan to continue their on-site work Wednesday, after security concerns forced them to postpone a visit to the Damascus suburbs on Tuesday.

U.S. officials have said there is "no doubt" Syrian forces used chemical weapons, and that President Barack Obama could decide on a response within days.

In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron has recalled his country's parliament to discuss the situation on Thursday. He said any action would be a response to the use of chemical weapons, and not intended to draw Western powers further into the Syrian conflict.

French President Francois Hollande says his country is ready to punish those who made the "vile" decision to gas innocent people. He also promised France will increase its military support to the main Syrian opposition group.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned of a "forceful" response if Syria makes any attempt to attack Israel.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu denounced the Syrian government's alleged chemical weapon attacks near Damascus as a "crime against humanity" and said it must "not go unanswered."

But China's state news agency Xinhua cautioned against a rush to military action. In a Tuesday commentary, it said the world should remember that the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq followed U.S. allegations that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Those weapons were never found.

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