The civil war in Syria is a growing source of tension between the United States and Russia, a subject President Obama is expect to broach with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, during this week's Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland. As the United States prepares to send arms and ammunition to the rebel forces, Russia has disputed the claims of Western nations that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons, and Moscow appears unlikely to yield to U.S. urging that it cease its support of the Assad regime in Damascus.
"It's in Russia's interest to join us in applying pressure on Bashar al-Assad to come to the table in a way that relinquishes his power and his standing in Syria, because we don't see any scenario where he restores his legitimacy to lead the country," Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters at the White House.
The insistence that the Syrian president abdicate his office does not leave Assad much room for negotiation, however, and he is not likely to surrender at the conference table what he has not lost on the battlefield. The Russians clearly do not see it as in their interest to abandon a strategic ally in the Middle East. And while Moscow has not gone as far as the Syrian foreign ministry has in accusing Washington of issuing "a statement full of lies regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria," Putin's foreign policy advisor, Yuri Ushakov, was quite blunt in calling the evidence unconvincing.
"I will say frankly that what was presented to us by the Americans does not look convincing," Ushakov said."It would be hard even to call them facts."
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