News / USA

White House Responds to Putin, Says Military Aid Flowing to Syrian Rebels

President Barack Obama awaits the start of a meeting with members of his cabinet, Sept. 12, 2013, in the Cabinet Room of the White House.
President Barack Obama awaits the start of a meeting with members of his cabinet, Sept. 12, 2013, in the Cabinet Room of the White House.
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— President Barack Obama is hopeful that U.S.-Russian talks can bring about a diplomatic solution on Syria and its chemical weapons.  The White House meanwhile has responded to a newspaper commentary by Russian President Vladimir Putin, and discussed U.S. military aid to Syrian rebels.  

Beginning a cabinet meeting Thursday, President Obama referred to the talks the United States and Russia are holding in Geneva.

"I am hopeful that the discussions that Secretary Kerry had with Foreign Minister Lavrov as well as some of the other players in this can yield a concrete result.  And I know that he is going to be working very hard over the next several days to see what the possibilities are there," he said.

Obama did not respond to shouted questions on another topic making news - Russian President Vladimir Putin's strong comments about Syria and a potential U.S military strike, published in The New York Times.

Putin said any strike "would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism," and could negatively effect efforts to address Iran's nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.  

He also said there is "every reason" to believe opposition fighters were the ones responsible for using chemical weapons in Syria in a bid to draw an outside military response.

The Russian leader also challenged Obama's statement in his Tuesday address that while America cannot be the world's policeman, it's willingness to act when it can with "modest risk"  to stop people being gassed makes America "different" and "exceptional."

Press Secretary Jay Carney called it a "great irony" that Putin would make use of the tool of freedom of expression, which he called a "truly exceptional tradition" in America, and which he said is "on the decrease in Russia."

"The fact is that Russia offers a stark contrast that demonstrates why America is exceptional.  Unlike Russia, the U.S. stands up for democratic values and human rights in our own country and around the world, and we believe our global security is advanced when children cannot be gassed to death by a dictator," Carney said.

Carney said Putin has "invested his credibility" in the diplomatic initiative to put Syrian chemical weapons under international control and ultimately destroying them.

But he added that Russia is "isolated and alone" in blaming Syria's opposition for the August 21 chemical weapons attack in Damascus.

Obama's spokesman also was asked about military aid the administration announced earlier this year would begin flowing to Syrian rebels.

Carney responded to a statement by General Salim Idris, head of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), who has said rebels are still waiting for arms and ammunition.

"We cannot detail every single type of support that we are providing to the opposition or discuss timelines for delivery.  But it is important to note that both the political and the military opposition are, and will be, receiving this assistance," he said.

Syria's opposition has condemned the diplomatic initiative being discussed in Geneva.  General Idris, in a National Public Radio interview, called Putin a "terrorist" and "a liar" for supporting the Assad regime.

On Russia's role in seeking a diplomatic solution, White House Press Secretary Carney was asked if Obama trusts Putin.

Saying "actions speak louder than words", Carney said only that if a diplomatic solution can avert use of military force, "credit will be due to the Russians and to everyone else who participates".

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