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World Powers Split Over US Plan to Punish Syria

World Powers Split Over US Plan to Punish Syriai
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September 07, 2013
The Group of 20 split down the middle Friday on the question of supporting the United States in punishing Syria’s government for apparently gassing civilians two weeks ago in Damascus. VOA's James Brooke reports that as the G-20 meeting ended in St. Petersburg, the White House released a statement endorsed by U.S. President Barack Obama and 10 other world leaders.

VIDEO: Group of 20 cleaved down the middle Friday on question of supporting U.S. in push for strikes against the Syria’s government.

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— The Group of 20 split down the middle Friday on the question of supporting the United States in punishing Syria’s government for apparently gassing civilians two weeks ago in Damascus.

As the G-20 meeting ended in St. Petersburg, the White House released a statement endorsed by U.S. President Barack Obama and 10 other world leaders. It said: “The world cannot wait for endless failed processes that can only lead to increased suffering in Syria and regional instability. We support efforts undertaken by the United States and other countries to reinforce the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons.”

Obama said his next step will be to appeal directly to the American people in a televised address from the White House on Tuesday. The U.S. president is seeking approval from the U.S. Congress for air strikes against Syria’s military.

In Russia, he said the world cannot stand by while weapons of mass destruction are used against civilians.

“Failing to respond to this breach of this international norm would send a signal to rogue nations, authoritarian regimes and terrorist organizations that they can use W.M.D. and not pay a consequence - and that’s not a world we want to live in,” the American president told reporters.

Making a case

The statement backing U.S. action was endorsed by the leaders of Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Turkey.

During his 24 hours in St. Petersburg, the American president stressed that military action will be limited to punishing the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for gassing civilians.

“Gassing innocent people, delivering chemical weapons against children, is not something we do,” he said at the press conference. “It’s prohibited in active wars between countries, even more so against children, and we’ve got to stand up for that principle.”

Obama repeatedly refused to say whether he would order air attacks against Syria if Congress does not vote to authorize use of military force.

In St. Petersburg, the American president repeatedly was countered by Russian President Vladimir Putin - in a 20-minute one-on-one meeting Thursday night, and at group meetings of the world leaders.

Putin presses point

At Putin’s press conference, he listed the countries that supported his position of non-interference.

“Who was categorically against?” he asked. “Russia, China, India, Indonesia - I draw your attention, the largest Muslim country in the world in terms of population - Argentina, Brazil, South Africa.”

While several countries are against U.S. action, the Russian president also took what are increasingly minority positions: casting doubt that chemical weapons were used and saying that, if they were, it was opposition fighters who used them.

“I assume that everything that happened with the so-called chemical weapons, is a provocation by the fighters, who are counting on to their side, on the help of those countries who from the beginning supported them,” said Putin. “That's the whole point of this provocation.”

A reporter asked the Russian president if Russia would send military aid to Syria in the event of an attack by the United States.

“Are we going to help Syria?” asked Putin. “We will. The way we now help. We supply weapons, we cooperate in the economic sphere. I hope there will be more cooperation in the humanitarian sphere.”

Russia's reprisals

Earlier in the week, the Russian leader suggested that if the United States attacks, the Kremlin would consider completing delivery of sophisticated S-300 air-defense missiles to Syria.

Russia’s support of Syria’s government is so rock solid, that the Obama administration has little hope of winning support in the United Nations Security Council.

Russia has vetoed three Syria resolutions in the Security Council. On Thursday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said: "Russia continues to hold the Council hostage and shirk its responsibility."

With the world divided and congressional support in doubt, the American president seems to face an uphill battle to forge ahead with air strikes.

  • Russia's President Vladimir Putin, center foreground, gestures as he walks by U.S. President Barack Obama, front row second right, as he takes his place at a group photo outside of the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 6, 2013.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama, right, walks with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel prior to a group photo of G-20 leaders outside of the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 6, 2013. 
  • An image of U.S. President Barack Obama drinking out of a paper cup is shown on a large screen in the media center of a G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 6, 2013. 
  • British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks during a media conference after a G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) arrives for the family picture event during the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Sept. 6, 2013.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama walks away after shaking hands with Russia's President Vladimir Putin during arrivals for the G20 Summit at the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg, Sept. 5, 2013.
  • U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Sept. 5, 2013.
  • A man protests possible military action in Syria as the first day of the G20 Summit gets underway in St. Petersburg, Sept. 5, 2013.
  • BRICS leaders' at the G20 Summit in Strelna near St. Petersburg, Sept. 5, 2013.
  • Participants sit at a table during a BRICS leaders' meeting at the G20 Summit in Strelna near St. Petersburg, Sept. 5, 2013.
  • Apples are seen on the ground next to statues across the street from the Constantine Palace, the venue for a G20 meeting in St. Petersburg, Sept. 4, 2013.

James Brooke

A foreign correspondent who has reported from five continents, Brooke, known universally as Jim, is the Voice of America bureau chief for Russia and former Soviet Union countries. From his base in Moscow, Jim roams Russia and Russia’s southern neighbors.

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by: Bob Vedari from: Van Nuys, CA
September 06, 2013 6:01 PM
"The world is split" - there are those who have no moral conscience and are fine with the slaughter of civilians. Then there are those who have a moral conscience, but doubt the ability of The Messiah to do anything worthwhile because his track record of worthwhile things sucks. It's not so much a left-right thing. It's a don't care-don't trust thing.


by: Marin Dinca from: San Diego
September 06, 2013 5:46 PM
We know the criminals in an abominable crime; they profit from it! No aggression war can start without the WAR HYSTERIA manufactured by the "media”; that is people who won it. The West is arming one side in the civil war – Russians are arming Syria against Israel’s air attacks (see S-300 antiaircraft missiles). The real question is: would we attack Syria if they are willing to use chemical weapons? Syrians have no place to go. They may use any weapons if faced with extermination. Israel would/may do the same. So, my best hope is that US would just give the Russians a bloody nose by taking out the S-300 antiaircraft missiles… and if Iran moves a finger, we got the chance to take their nuclear facilities out (a slap in the face to the Russians for they have built Iran’s, first nuclear power plant). A “limited” nuclear accident/war is possible in the East Mediterranean Sea –far away from USA! After all, what good make the nuclear (or chemical) weapons if no one is using them?! There is not that much radioactive fallout at sea. There is life now in the Bikini islands… We know all wars are started by cowards. Benjamin Franklin (see his picture on US largest dollar bill!) said: “there never was a good war or a bad peace” or something like that… Today, media treats the American Government as if they are a bunch of teenagers (or mentally retarded) with their talk about “credibility”. Credibility is what we need? We can destroy the life on this planet with our nuclear arsenal. Is there a country/people on the face of the Earth that knows NOT that? At times, God gives a person or a Nation much power and He takes it away if it is abused.

In Response

by: Ramnarayan from: Florida, USA
September 07, 2013 2:05 PM
The way American govt. is acting they qualifies them to be called imbeciles. It is a shame that you have such a stunted development. You must live in a world which is devoid of any intellects. We are the only nation that has nuclear missiles. If everybody has the same twisted thinking you would expect out of us Americans, just pause to imagine the consequence. We need more, not less press to question the govt. We are supposed to be a democracy, not a sheik kingdom.

In Response

by: Markt
September 06, 2013 7:43 PM
a 'limited nuclear accident /war'? 'What good make the nuclear (or chemical) weapons if no one is using them'? Your quotes...and you are out of your friggin' head for thinking that...
Bikini Atoll returning to life, after 55 years since the last nuclear test was done (and the 6 tests before that). As far as chemical weapons are concerned, have you seen what a chemical agent can do to a person, even a non-lethal one? As a former Marine, I have seen it. It is a terrible, painful and agonizing experience, and you wish you would die from it. And, as far as a 'limited nuclear accident /war' try googling nuclear disasters, like Chernobyl, and the most recent one in Japan. Google Hiroshima and Nagasaki, if you want to know the effects of the use of nuclear weapons does to a people.
You obviously do not know your history, if you think that such actions are good. 'not much radioactive fallout at sea', none that affect people? How about sea life, the fish we consume? I cannot even think of any more harm any country can do, than to unleash a nuclear 'accident' on anyone else...
Just because it will never happen to you (God forbid), doesn't mean it isn't terrible, and something to be prevented from happening at all costs...

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