Putin urges US not to strike Syria
Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged US President Barack Obama not to rush into any decision on striking Syria, but to consider whether strikes would help end the violence and be worth the likely civilian casualties.
The statements were the first from Mr Putin since the suspected chemical weapons attack on August 21. Mr Putin advised Mr Obama to reflect on the results of US military intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq before deciding to unleash air strikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime.
He also questioned whether Syrian government troops should be held responsible. He said it would make no sense for them to carry out such a devastating attack while they were on the offensive.
"In such conditions, to give a trump card to those who are calling for foreign military intervention is foolish nonsense," Mr Putin said. "It defies all logic."
His statement came after US secretary of state John Kerry said there is "compelling" evidence that Bashar Assad's regime launched a chemical weapons attack on the outskirts of Damascus - putting the death toll at more than 1,400. At least 1,429 people were killed last week, including 426 children, he told reporters in Washington.
Mr Kerry said the American intelligence community has "high confidence" in its assessments, which is based on thousands of sources. He added: "We know that after a decade of conflict the American people are tired of war. Believe me, I am too. But fatigue does not absolve us of responsibility. Just longing for peace does not necessarily bring it about and history would judge us all extraordinarily harshly if we turned a blind eye to a dictator's wanton use of weapons of mass destruction against all warnings, against all understanding of common decency."
Britain's "special relationship" with America has come under intense scrutiny after Prime Minister David Cameron was forced to rule out military action following Thursday night's humiliating Commons defeat. Mr Kerry said the US had "friends ready to respond", referring to "our oldest ally, the French", while the UK remained absent from the mix.
The secretary of state repeatedly insisted that the US "knows" what happened in the August 21 attack and has declassified some of the evidence to allow the public access to it.
He said: "We know rockets came only from regime-controlled areas and went only to opposition controlled or contested neighbourhoods. And we know, as does the world, that just 90 minutes later all hell broke loose on the social media. With our own eyes we have seen reports from 11 separate sites in the Damascus suburbs. All of them show and report victims with breathing difficulties, people twitching with spasms, coughing, rapid heart beats, foaming at the mouth and death.
"We know it was ordinary Syrian citizens who reported all of these horrors. And, just as important, we know what the doctors and the nurses who treated them didn't report. Not a scratch, not a shrapnel wound, not a cut, not a gunshot wound."