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Rebels criticise Russian proposal

Syrian rebels have criticised the Russian proposal on securing their country's chemical weapons, saying that Bashar Assad's government should instead be made to face an international court for last month's attack near Damascus.

The top rebel commander, General Salim Idris, said regime officials should be referred to the International Criminal Court for the alleged August 21 chemical attack near the Syrian capital that killed hundreds.

General Idris, speaking for the Free Syrian Army, said "chemical weapons were the tool of the crime" in the attack in Ghouta suburb.

He said the FSA "categorically rejects the Russian initiative".

General Idris's statement was broadcast on pan-Arab satellite channels, hours ahead of talks in Geneva between US secretary of state John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on the Russian proposal.

Earlier, Russian president Vladimir Putin said he was no fan of the idea of American exceptionalism - and neither was God.

"It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation," Mr Putin said in an opinion piece posted on the website of The New York Times.

"There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord's blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal."

Mr Putin's remarks concluded a plea to Americans for caution in dealing with Syria, a Russian ally. He cited president Barack Obama's speech on Wednesday in which he asserted that American ideals and principles "are at stake in Syria" as he made his case for holding the Assad government accountable for the deadly chemical weapons attack.

"That's what makes America different," Mr Obama said. "That's what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth."


From Belfast Telegraph