CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

CONTROVERSIAL TOPICS

Friday, September 6, 2013

Moscow warns of nuclear catastrophe if US launches strikes at Assad's uranium reactor

 

The file photo shows a NATO Sea Sparrow missile launched during a live-fire self-defense missile exercise aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman in 2004. In the final scene of 1968 film, “The Planet of the Apes“, Charlton Heston (playing the part of Astronaut Taylor who just realized he landed back on earth) condemns mankind for destroying the world. This could be you in the near future and it can happen if we don’t stop this current drive to attack Syria and Iran.

Today, Russia and America are on nuclear alert…this is why

Congress is about to vote on a resolution to strike Syria, already the Senate panel voted (4 Sep 2013) authorizing war. The Lobby is pushing hard, the drums of war are beating loudly in the halls of Congress. It is very probable that Congress will approve a ‘limited’ strike on Syria based on the lies of the Obama administration. Is this a good idea? Will it escalate into WW3? Are we ill prepared if it does? What might happen if things go terribly wrong?

In the final scene of 1968 film, “The Planet of the Apes“, Charlton Heston (playing the part of Astronaut Taylor who just realized he landed back on earth) condemns mankind for destroying the world. This could be you in the near future and it can happen if we don’t stop this current drive to attack Syria and Iran.

In the final scene of 1968 film, “The Planet of the Apes“, Charlton Heston (playing the part of Astronaut Taylor who just realized he landed back on earth) condemns mankind for destroying the world. This could be you in the near future and it can happen if we don’t stop this current drive to attack Syria and Iran.

Because of all the previous wars, which have not caused a catastrophic change in living standards or the sudden collapse of the world economy, most Americans are content to do nothing to prevent another war. But this war is far different than the Gulf Wars of 1991 and 2003, this time Russia and Iran are backing Syria and warning the US not to attack. In just the last month, the US backed terrorists (i.e. rebels) have leveled whole cities and killed over 100,000 civilians and displaced another 2 million. America and Israel are already causing hell in Syria, they already know full well what awaits them, and are going to fight back with everything they have if America attacks.

Apocalypse now in Syria, there is already catastrophic damage to Syrian cities, millions displayed, hundreds of thousands killed by the Zionist unleashed hell.

Apocalypse now in Syria, there is already catastrophic damage to Syrian cities, millions displayed, hundreds of thousands killed by the Zionist unleashed hell.

Caption: Jehovah Witness art - Jesus destroys the world. Compare the painting to the recent photo of Syria above, they are the same image. Are Christians manifesting Armageddon with their collective thoughts?

Jesus destroys the world. Compare the painting to the recent photo of Syria above, they are the same image. Are Christians manifesting Armageddon with their collective thoughts?

The file photo shows a NATO Sea Sparrow missile launched during a live-fire self-defense missile exercise aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman in 2004.

The file photo shows a NATO Sea Sparrow missile launched during a live-fire self-defense missile exercise aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S Truman in 2004.

By Gordon Duff and Press TV

“When Israel admitted the launch but claimed the US was ‘partnering,’ the Department of Defense issued a denial.” Today, Israel claimed they tested their missile defense system in the Eastern Mediterranean by firing a Sea Sparrow missile in order to simulate an Iranian ICBM attack. However, everything Israel announced was a lie.

The Sea Sparrow, more appropriately, RIM 162 ESSM, is a short-range, ship-launched air defense missile.

Israel currently has no stock of sea-launched missiles of this type and opted not to join the 12 nation consortium that developed this missile.

In no way does the Sea Sparrow resemble an ICBM, not in appearance, performance, range or radar signature. Israel possesses none of these weapons and certainly didn’t launch one.

Israel claimed this exercise was done in coordination with the US Navy. Nevertheless, the US Navy, when told of the launch by Russia, accused that nation of “rumor mongering” and denied any knowledge of the launch.

When Israel admitted the launch but claimed the US was “partnering,” the Department of Defense issued a denial.

War conditions, Eastern Mediterranean

The US has five advanced destroyers, three nuclear submarines, four frigates, several supply and support ships and one ship carrying a Marine amphibious landing force in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Russia has one heavy cruiser, a dozen support ships, two fast attack nuclear submarines and a newly commissioned electronic warfare ship on station near the American taskforce.

Israel has three Dolphin submarines in the region, one of them “on permanent station,” having been sunk by a helicopter-launched Russian anti-submarine torpedo at 2:36 PM on the night of May 2/3, 2013. The Israeli submarine had been on a routine mission supporting reconnaissance teams during an exfiltration from Syria. Neither the bodies of the crew nor the submarine have been recovered.

Naval forces are on high alert, both US and Russian. Russian forces are supported by advanced ship launched air defenses supported by both satellite SAR/IR and optical sensors and advanced radar systems with sufficient range to cover the region from Russian territory.

The US has similar capabilities plus operates AWAC early warning aircraft that cover all air traffic from Iran to Italy.

No Israeli aircraft were then operating over the Mediterranean, nor were they seen to launch one or more missiles, either the sea launched Sparrow or the much smaller AIM 7.

That missile is for air to air combat and is decades old. No aspect of its launch or flight characteristics could be mistaken for an ICBM. Its range is so limited that it could never be used as a target. A child can carry one of these under his arm without considerable difficulty.

This is the missile Israel claimed it tested.

When all else is eliminated …

The only missiles that could have been launched would have come from submarines.

Israel could and did in some ways, claim to be testing their Iron Dome air defense system. However, a key component of the Iron Dome or “Iron Yamuka” as it is called, is the naval defense component supplied by the US Navy.

The US has agreed that during tests of the system, up to four American air defense frigates would supply offshore radar and launch support, without which the Iron Dome is ineffective.

The US denies participation in any such test.

Israel claims it was testing its system to prepare for attacks from Iran and Syria. Nonetheless, were they to have actually used the types of missiles they claim, no potential target would have come within the range of Israel’s defenses.

Additionally, not only are the targets dissimilar to the claimed threat, but the approach predicted could only imply a perceived threat from either Russian or American naval forces, the only launch platforms capable of such an attack except, of course, for the two functioning Dolphin submarines armed with Tomahawk missiles, which were patrolling between the US and Russian fleets.

False flag

Russian radar and satellite systems detected two launches. Were Israel to have launched both missiles as they claim, they could only have been firing at:

  • - Israel, in order to simulate a Russian attack or
  • - Syria, in order to simulate an American attack

There are no other options.

As Israel has no air defense capabilities of any kind over the Mediterranean, the only way the one or more Israeli missiles could have been intercepted is by naval forces of either the United States or Russia. No one else in the region has that capability.

News stories published online claim the United States shot down two Israeli-launched cruise type missiles heading toward Syria.

Though the sources reporting have both poor reliability and a history of contact with Israeli intelligence, it is possible this report is accurate and has been purposefully “poisoned” to cover a major strategic blunder by Israel.

Were an unauthorized missile to have been launched within 200 miles of US Naval forces in the region, as admitted by Israel, the US would have automatically shot them down. Cruise missiles travel at the speed of commercial aircraft. American missile interceptors travel at many times that speed.

Historical problems

The US has a long history of failures in protecting assets in the region and elsewhere.

  • In 1967, the US was unable to respond when Israeli planes and boats attacked the USS Liberty for four hours, killing or wounding most of the crew.
  • In 1987, Iraq fired an anti-ship missile into the USS Stark, seriously damaging that ship.
  • In 1988, the USS Vincennes shot down an Iranian airliner on a regularly scheduled direct route to Dubai, killing 290 passengers.
  • In 1996, TWA flight 800 was shot down off New York by a missile fired within sight of an American destroyer with advanced air defense capabilities.
  • In 2000, two Yemeni fishermen in a rowboat exploded a bomb, seriously damaging the USS Cole.
  • In 2001, there are reports that multiple hijacked aircraft were crashed into, not just the World Trade Center but Pentagon, areas defended by AEGIS defense systems that had 45 minutes warning, were on high alert, but unable to respond quickly enough.

Maybe the US saw the missile launches, maybe they didn’t or maybe they see what they want to see.

War through deception

What would be gained by firing missiles from the Mediterranean into Syria? It is obvious that no missiles were fired toward Israel. Only a complete idiot could accept a story like that, especially when the US government failed to confirm any aspect of it.

- The Russians could have seen this attack as a threat to their own naval forces and fired on Israel or the American fleet, bringing about a world war.

- Syria could have fired its advanced anti-ship missiles at the closest surface ships to the origin of the launch. Were one or more American ships sunk, which the Syrians are more than capable of as Israel has learned much to its own dismay, this might bring about a world war.

- Were missiles to land in Syria, particularly near the seat of government or hitting a school or hospital, Iran would likely immediately sink the USS Nimitz, currently on station in the Persian Gulf. America would be hated by the world, Russia would be forced to attack US ships in the Mediterranean and world war would begin.

Is this, perhaps, why the United States would have shot down the Israeli Tomahawk missiles heading toward Syria?

Are any other scenarios possible?

What nations may have been cooperating with Israel in this plan? Who would benefit?

The possibilities here are frightening.

 

Senators who backed Syria resolution got 83 per cent more defense lobby money than those who voted against it, campaign finance numbers show

Wednesday's 10-7 vote in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee supporting an authorization of military attacks on Syria may have been affected by varying levels of financial support the senators got from political action committees representing the defense industry, and from the companies' employees.

On average, a 'yes'-voting senator received 83 per cent more money from defense contractors than one who voted 'no.'

The resolution in its current form would endorse Obama administration-led strikes against Syria for up to 90 days, following revelations that the regime of dictator Bashar al-Assad used a nerve gas weapon against civilians as part of a brutal civil war.

The resolution would not authorize the deployment of ground forces, but MailOnline reported Wednesday that the Pentagon has already estimated the need for 75,000 troops to secure Syria's vast supplies of chemical weapons and the factories that produce them.

A single Tomahawk cruise missile can cost up to $1.4 million, making even a limited series of strikes on Syrian targets an expensive proposition

A single Tomahawk cruise missile can cost up to $1.4 million, making even a limited series of strikes on Syrian targets an expensive proposition. Defense contractors and their lobbyists use campaign cash to persuade lawmakers to spend more and more

Sabers rattle: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez and ranking Republican Bob Corker, two 'yes' votes, received a combined $130,850 from defense contractors

Sabers rattle: Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez and ranking Republican Bob Corker, two 'yes' votes, received a combined $130,850 from defense contractors

John McCain received more defense lobby cash than any other senator who cast a vote Wednesday on Syria. He is one of three committee Republicans to support President Obama

The big kahuna: Republican John McCain received more defense lobby cash than any other senator who cast a vote Wednesday on Syria: $176,300. He is one of three committee Republicans to support President Obama, saying it would be 'catastrophic' if Congress doesn't go along

Democratic Sen Tom Udall voted to deny Obama the approval he wants for a Syrian bombing campaign. He received only $18,700 from defense contractors and their political action committees over a five-year period

The small fry: Democratic Sen Tom Udall voted to deny Obama the approval he wants for a Syrian bombing campaign. That may have had something to do with the fact that his campaigns received only $18,700 from defense contractors and their political action committees over a five-year period

Committee members who voted Wednesday to support the proposal collected an average of $72,850 in defense campaign financing between 2007 and 2012, Wired magazine reported, based on data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Those who dissented in the committee vote averaged $39,770. The Center's data include more than $1 million in political donations to the 17 senators who cast up-or-down votes on the measure.

The phenomenon crossed party lines. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, one of three Republicans to vote in the affirmative, collected the largest amount – $176,300 – for his campaigns. The next largest numbers belonged to Democrats, including $127,350 given to Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin and $101,025 given to Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine. All three voted yes.

The four senators who received the least amount of defense dollars, ranging from $14,000 to $19,250, all voted no. They included three Republicans and one Democrat.The Democratic party holds 10 of the 18 seats on the powerful foreign relations committee. The 18th member, Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, voted 'present,' abstaining from a decision until, he said, he could examine more classified intelligence information and consult with experts.

Skydiving into Aleppo? Aircraft, parachutes, uniforms and small arms come to the military by way of contractors who are greasing senators' campaign palms

Skydiving into Aleppo? Aircraft, parachutes, uniforms and small arms come to the military by way of contractors who are greasing senators' campaign palms

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio

Voting their consciences? GOP Sens. John Barasso of Wyoming (L) and Marco Rubio of Florida (R) voted against military action in Syria, despite collecting nearly $150,000 between them from the defense lobby

$4 million and no cockpit: Predator drones can deliver a lethal punch but each one costs more than a Manhattan townhouse -- and missiles are extra

$4 million and no cockpit: Predator drones can deliver a lethal punch but each one costs more than a Manhattan townhouse -- and missiles are extra

Among the biggest contributors to senators involved in yesterday's vote were Lockheed Martin, Boeing, United Technologies and Honeywell International, companies that make everything from stealth bombers to long-range missiles and aerial drones.

While members of Congress have complained that Pentagon budget cuts due to the 2013 budget sequester will hamper any military effort in the Middle East, those giant contractors will likely benefit from any military action.

A single Tomahawk cruise missile costs the government between $700,000 and $1.4 million, according to published estimates. And each unmanned Predator aerial drone sets the Defense Department back a whopping $4 million.

In 2012 A Pentagon spokesman told CNN that it costs another $815,000 per year to pay, deploy, feed, house, arm and maintain every soldier on the ground in Afghanistan.

Applying that math to the 75,000 troops the Pentagon has said it will need to secure Syrian chemical weapons sites, a two-month deployment at similar costs would cost $5.09 billion per month.

Secretary of State John Kerry told a House of Representatives committee on Wednesday that countries in the Arab world have offered to pay the cost of removing Assad from power in a full-blown military offensive, but the Obama administration has said its objectives would be limited to ensuring the Syrian government can no longer access or use chemical weapons.

WHO GOT THE DEFENSE DOLLARS, AND HOW THEY VOTED ON SYRIA

The Center for Responsive Politics tracks financial donations to political candidates from individuals, companies and political committees. Its data show that over a 5-year period, most of the $1,006,887 that flowed from the defense lobby to senators who weighed in on Wednesdays war powers resolution went to those who cast 'yes' votes.

On average, those 'yes' votes came after $72,850 in defense-contractor campaign dollars, while a 'no' vote followed just $39,270.

Here's how it stacked up.

YES VOTES

$176,300 – John McCain (R-AZ)
$127,350 – Dick Durbin (D-IL)
$101,025 – Tim Kaine (D-VA)
$80,550 – Ben Cardin (D-MD)
$70,850 – Bob Corker (R-TN)
$60,000 – Bob Menendez (D-NJ)
$41,872 – Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)
$26,900 – Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
$24,150 – Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
$19,500 – Chris Coons (D-DE)

An Associated Press reporter became a symbol Wednesday of journalists' impatience with the Obama administration's course in making a case for military strikes in Syria, asking the State Department's chief spokeswoman whether the White House had undergone a 'group spine removal procedure.'

Longtime AP foreign affairs correspondent Matt Lee was invited to ask the first question in a State Department briefing, and asked spokeswoman Jen Psaki why Secretary of State John Kerry called President Obama 'courageous' for seeking congressional approval before taking military action.

'I don’t understand what is courageous,' Lee said, 'about asking permission for something that you say you don’t need, to do what you believe to be the right thing, not just morally but in general.'

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'Was there some kind of, like, group spine removal procedure at the White House?' the AP reporter asked a surprised State Department press secretary

'Was there some kind of, like, group spine removal procedure at the White House?' the AP reporter asked a surprised State Department press secretary, needling her over Obama's decision to ask Congress's permission to attack Syria

Secretary of State Kerry said on Sunday that Obama was 'courageous' for seeking congressional consent, even though the president said he could strike the Assad regime with or without legislators' support

Secretary of State Kerry said on Sunday that Obama was 'courageous' for seeking congressional consent, even though the president said he could strike the Assad regime with or without legislators' support

You said what? State Department press secretary Jen Psaki fended off aggressive questions on Wednesday from a journalist who openly mocked the Obama administration's congressional-consent plan

You said what? State Department press secretary Jen Psaki fended off aggressive questions on Wednesday from a journalist who openly mocked the Obama administration's congressional-consent plan, asking if the White House had had its spine removed

'Can you explain why this is a courageous move,' he asked Psaki, 'or why the secretary would call it a courageous move?'

Kerry still believes 'that targeted intervention is absolutely the right step,' she replied, 'and he does support the president’s decision to bring this to Congress.'

An impatient Lee fired back: 'So was there some kind of, like, group spine removal procedure at the White House over the weekend? I don’t understand. How does – how is this courageous?'

Psaki acknowledged that Obama can act militarily without a nod from Congress, but insisted that he and Kerry believed that cooperation with lawmakers 'makes our case even stronger internationally.'

Lee, who is known for a no-holds-barred style of interrogating government officials, charged that 'it would seem the only reason to go to Congress, then, would be to give the president an excuse or a reason not to act.'

'That’s absolutely not the case,' Psaki replied.

Reporter: Was there a WH spine removal surgery on Syria

Assad forces continue to kill civilians in the 30-month-long civil war that has claimed more than 100,000 lives and displaced 2 million Syrian citizens. This Sept. 5 photo shows the ruins of the Northern city of Idlib

Assad forces continue to kill civilians in the 30-month-long civil war that has claimed more than 100,000 lives and displaced 2 million Syrian citizens. This Sept. 5 photo shows the ruins of the Northern city of Idlib where buildings toppled and children were reportedly killed

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has attempted to maintain an air of respectability while slaughtering his own people, by publishing glowing photos on Instagram

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has attempted to maintain an air of respectability while slaughtering his own people, by publishing glowing photos on Instagram

Kerry said during a Sept. 1 appearance on Fox News Sunday that waiting to attack Syria until Congress has a chance to concur or dissent 'is a smart decision by the president. I think it's a courageous decision.'

'But nothing is going to happen for 10 days,' host Chris Wallace observed.

The Obama administration's Capitol Hill gambit is threatening to all apart in the House of Representatives, where nearly 200 of the 435 voting members have said publicly that they're likely to vote against a war powers resolution.

And the longer the Pentagon waits to attack, the more likely it is that chemical weapons will be spirited out of the country – most likely into Hezbollah-controlled regions of Lebanon to the west or Palestinian-occupied territory to the south.

And there is no guarantee that Bashar al-Assad, Syria's head of state, will refrain from making further use of his chemical weapons stockpiles against rebel forces in the country's brutal civil war.

'If you believe that military action will deter Assad from using chemical weapons again,' the AP's Lee said, 'then it seems to me you would want to do it sooner rather than later because more people ... Assad would use them again.'

Kerry, along with Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, have delivered contentious performances in both houses of Congress, facing objections from both Code Pink and the GOP

Kerry, along with Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, have delivered contentious performances in both houses of Congress, facing objections from both Code Pink and the GOP

Meanwhile, at the G-20: President Obama is fending off an angry Russian president Vladimir Putin while trying to drum up support for attacking Syria. his administration announced Wednesday that 10 nations have approved of his plan

Meanwhile, at the G-20: President Obama is fending off an angry Russian president Vladimir Putin while trying to drum up support for attacking Syria. his administration announced Wednesday that 10 nations have approved of his plan, but officials wouldn't say if any of them had agreed to participate in the military action.

Could the current conflict in Syria be the latest sign of the end of days? Apocalypse buffs with unlikely predictions of impending Armageddon seem to think so - including an author who claims to have been a consultant to former Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu and who seems to have the ears of former presidential candidates Rick Santorum and Rick Perry.

'The innocent blood shed by the Assad regime is reprehensible and heart-breaking and is setting the stage for a terrible judgment,' best-selling author and self-described Jewish believer in Jesus Joel C. Rosenberg wrote in a blog post last year.

However unlikely the wild theory may seem to established foreign policy experts, the fringe belief that the conflict in Syria could be the beginning of the end for mankind stems from an Old Testament prophecy called the 'burden of Damascus,' which is found in Isaiah 17.

Armageddon? Evangelists fear the conflict in Syria is the beginning of end times, as described in the Old Testament

Armageddon? Evangelists fear the conflict in Syria is the beginning of end times, as described in the Old Testament

Burden of Demascus: Author Joel Rosenberg's biblical theories about the Middle East are getting a lot of attention as the crisis in Syria escalates

Burden of Damascus: Author Joel Rosenberg's biblical theories about the Middle East are getting a lot of attention as the crisis in Syria escalates

The prophecy contends that conflict in the Middle East will ultimately leave Damascus - Syria's capitol - in ruins, which, the prophecy claims, will bring the world one step closer to Armageddon.

'Damascus is about to be removed from being a city, and will become a fallen ruin,' the prophecy states, implying that the city will be destroyed by God on behalf of Israel as one of the final struggles for mankind.

How will Damascus fall? As Rosenberg notes, the Bible isn't exactly clear. However, one of his books offers his prediction - and it starts starts in Damascus.

Rosenberg's Twelfth Imam series describes the emergence of the Mahdi, the Muslim messiah, which leads to the rise of a new Islamic caliphate in the Middle East.

The new caliphate, Mother Jones explains, then 'prepares to decapitate Israel by launching nuclear warheads from Damascus.'

Powerful friends: Rosenberg has the ear of former presidential candidate Rick Santorum

Powerful friends: Rosenberg has the ear of former presidential candidate Rick Santorum

Texas Governor Rick Perry subscribes to Rosenberg's theory on the 'burden of Demascus

Texas Governor Rick Perry subscribes to Rosenberg's theory on the 'burden of Damascus'

Rosenberg's series is described on Amazon as 'a great read for anyone interested not only in the prophetical future of Israel but for Iran and Syria as well…[It] makes one want to keep his or her eyes wide open on current day Middle East events, and see if they line up to eschatological Old Testament passages.'

Rosenberg's prophecies may seem somewhat out there, but he's regarded by many as 'a modern-day Nostradamus' for his expertise on nuclear policy, particularly as it pertains to the Middle East. Santorum even wrote a foreward for the hardcover version of Rosenberg's most-recent novel, Damascus Countdown, and even had him on his radio show to discuss the book last spring.

Texas Governor Rick Perry - who ran for the presidency in 2012 and is expected to do so again in 2016 - met privately with Rosenberg in March to discuss Damascus Countdown

Other Christian doomsday mouthpieces are capitalizing on the burden of Damascus theory - Jan Markell, a Christian radio host frequented by former Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, sent out an email blast last spring warning of the tension in Syria leading to the end of the world.

Doomsday: Rosenberg plans to meet with Kansas Governor Sam Brownback this weekend to discuss the situation in the Middle East

Doomsday: Rosenberg plans to meet with Kansas Governor Sam Brownback this weekend to discuss the situation in the Middle East

On Friday, just before President Barack Obama announced he was taking his plan to launch missile attacks on Syria to Congress, Texas-based evangelist Hal Lindsey - who has been warning of the burden of Damascus for years - offered a dire warning on his television program.

'As I prepared for this weeks program, I was again struck by the speed with which events are moving into the scenario the prophets predicted for the end times,' he told his audience. 'I believe we're there. People on the street are talking about what all of these things mean. Folks that wouldn't go darken the door of a church or pick up a Bible are now very curious. This may be our greatest opportunity—maybe even our last opportunity—to share the gospel of Jesus Christ before we're silenced by political correctness.'

Rosenberg has plans to go to Topeka, Kansas on Saturday, where he will meet with Republican Governor Sam Brownback to discuss the conflicts in the Middle East.

 

Obama has expanded a list of potential targets in Syria as he struggles to gather international support for military action.

The US and France are so far the only nations attending the G20 to have backed the use of military force against the Assad regime, with Russia and China insisting that any action in the absence of UN Security Council approval would be illegal.

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta - who also attended this morning's aid meeting - said in a tweet last night that 'the G20 has just now finished the dinner session, at which the divisions about Syria were confirmed'.

A spokesman for the Russian presidency said a US strike on Syria would 'drive another nail into the coffin of international law'.

President Barack Obama, and members of his delegation walks to meet with China's President Xi Jinping for a bilateral meeting

Man on a mission: Obama has expanded a list of targets in Syria as he struggles to gather international support for military action

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during his bilateral meeting with China's President Xi Jinping

Plans: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during his bilateral meeting with China's President Xi Jinping

Photo opportunity: U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands as he meets with China's President Xi Jinping in St. Petersburg

Photo opportunity: U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands as he meets with China's President Xi Jinping in St. Petersburg

Tense

Tense: World leaders met at the G20 summit in Russia as tensions over the Syrian conflict threatened to torpedo the work plan of the summit

Russia has steadfastly backed Assad - militarily, economically and diplomatically - and disputes claims that Assad's regime was behind chemical attacks that the U.S. says killed more than 1,400 Syrians. Other estimates are lower. US frustrations over Russia's stance were reflected in comments by the American envoy to the UN, Samantha Power, who told a New York news conference: 'Even in the wake of the flagrant shattering of the international norm against chemical weapons use, Russia continues to hold the (Security) Council hostage and shirk its international responsibilities.

'What we have learned, what the Syrian people have learned, is that the Security Council the world needs to deal with this crisis is not the Security Council we have.'

Group photo: Russia's President Vladimir Putin, center front, stands with G-20 leaders during a group photo outside of the Konstantin Palac

Group photo: Russia's President Vladimir Putin, center front, stands with G-20 leaders during a group photo outside of the Konstantin Palace

Sunshine smiles : President Putin, left, President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and PM David Cameron as they pose for the family photo

Sunshine smiles : President Putin, left, President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and PM David Cameron as they pose for the family photo

Caffeine hit: President Obama attends the second working meeting of the G20 heads of state and government, heads of invited states and international organizations at the G20 Summit

Caffeine hit: President Obama attends the second working meeting of the G20 heads of state and government, heads of invited states and international organizations at the G20 Summit

A fleeting interaction between Obama and Putin became the high-drama moment of the summit, underscoring the labored state of relations between the two leaders who stand on opposing sides of the Syrian conflict.

In public, at least, the Russian and the American were all smiles Thursday, making small talk in front of news cameras for a few seconds as Obama arrived at the summit. But the welcoming handshake may have been where the pleasantries ended.

The Pentagon has been instructed by Obama to draw up a more extensive list of potential targets in Syria, according to the New York Times.

Meeting of minds

Meeting of minds: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron talk during the summit

Moving forward:

Moving forward: There are signs that Mr Obama may struggle to secure support in Congress for his proposal of 'limited and proportionate' military action against Assad

Target: Much of the new money will go towards medical training and equipment to help civilians targeted by chemical attacks

Future: A poll suggested more than one-third of Congress members were undecided whether or not to back military action, while a majority of those who had made a decision said they would vote against the President

This means expanding beyond the 50 or so major sites that were part of the original target list developed with France.

The newspaper reported that he gave the instruction following intelligence indicating that Assad has been moving troops and equipment used for chemical weapons.

The aim would not be to strike the chemical weapons instead headquarters overseeing efforts, military units and rockets.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin said Russia was boosting its naval presence in the Mediterranean Sea, moving in warships 'primarily' for a possible evacuation of Russians from Syria.

President Putin and President Hollande attend a meeting with Business 20 and Labour 20 representatives today

President Putin and President Hollande attend a meeting with Business 20 and Labour 20 representatives today

electric car for a meeting with the heads of BRICS member states'

Arrival: President Putin arrives in an electric car for a meeting with the heads of BRICS member states'

The US Government accuses Assad's forces of killing 1,429 people in a poison-gas attack in a suburb of the Syrian capital, Damascus, on August 21.

On the sidelines of the summit, Obama met Friday morning with Chinese President Xi Jinping, building on discussions the two had in June in California. At the start of the session, Xi touted the 'bountiful results' yielded by those talks, including closer military-to-military cooperation.

Obama said he and the Chinese leader planned to confer on issues ranging from the economy to North Korea's nuclear program.

'Although there will continue to be some significant disagreements and sources of tension, I am confident that they can be managed,' Obama said.

Neither leader mentioned their disagreement over Syria, where China is strongly warning against the use of force.

Before his scheduled return to Washington late Friday, Obama was to meet with French President Francois Hollande, his strongest ally on Syria and a vocal advocate for a military intervention. He also planned to meet with Russian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender activists, calling attention to another area of disagreement with Moscow.

walks to a dinner event that will take place with other G20 leaders at Peterhof Palace

Dining: U.S. President Barack Obama walks to a dinner event that will take place with other G20 leaders at Peterhof Palace

War and Peace: President Barack Obama was greeted by the women in aristocratic dress which seemed to be the questionable theme of Putin's G20 party

War and Peace: President Barack Obama was greeted by women in aristocratic dress at the party which seemed to have the questionable theme of decadence while the summit's key topic are poverty and war

Time to relax? President Obama looked uncomfortable as he walked to the venue where leaders were encouraged to unwind after a hard day of politics

Time to relax? President Obama looked uncomfortable as he walked to the venue where leaders were encouraged to unwind after a hard day of politics

Civil: The dinner table of the G20 summit at Peterhof Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia, where the G20 summit is taking place

Civil: The dinner table of the G20 summit at Peterhof Palace in Saint Petersburg, Russia, where the G20 summit is taking place

Britain announced yesterday that scientists at the Porton Down research laboratories have found traces of the nerve gas sarin on cloth and soil samples retrieved from the site of the attack.

Meanwhile, there were signs that Mr Obama may struggle to secure support in Congress for his proposal of 'limited and proportionate' military action against Assad.

A poll commissioned by the BBC and ABC News suggested more than one-third of Congress members were undecided whether or not to back military action, while a majority of those who had made a decision said they would vote against the President.

The survey found that 226 members of the House of Representatives said they would oppose or were likely to oppose military action, against 45 who were certain or likely to support it and 189 who were undecided or did not respond.

Some 17 members of the Senate were certain or likely to oppose Mr Obama's plans, against 23 certain or likely to back him and 60 whose position was undecided or unknown.

Strained

Strained: Obama canceled a planned one-on-one meeting with Putin in Moscow ahead of the G20 gathering as it became clear the pair would not find common ground on Syria

John Kerry reveals Arab countries have offered to PAY America to carry out full-scale invasion of Syria

Secretary of State John Kerry said during a hearing Wednesday in the House of Representatives that counties in the Arab world have offered to foot the entire bill for a U.S. military mission that destroys the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria.

'With respect to Arab countries offering to bear costs and to assist, the answer is profoundly yes,' Kerry said. 'They have. That offer is on the table.'

Kerry, with a cadre of anti-war activists sitting behind him and holding red-painted hands aloft in protest, declined to name the countries that have proposed opening their purses.

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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, an anti-war protester himself 40 years ago, is cast in the role of war consigliere to the president

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, an anti-war protester himself 40 years ago, is cast in the role of war consigliere to the president. He said Wednesday that Arab countries had offered to pay America's expenses for a military operation if it ousts Bashar al-Assad from Syria

The guided-missile destroyer USS Barry, foreground, is one of four US Navy destroyers to be deployed in the Mediterranean Sea on Sept. 3, all of which are combat ready against Syria if the order for a strike is given

The guided-missile destroyer USS Barry, foreground, is one of four US Navy destroyers to be deployed in the Mediterranean Sea on Sept. 3, all of which are combat ready against Syria if the order for a strike is given

Syrian women who live in Lebanon -- another of Syria's neighbors -- light candles during a vigil against chemical weapons attacks near Damascus, in front the United Nations headquarters in Beirut

Syrian women who live in Lebanon -- another of Syria's neighbors -- light candles during a vigil against chemical weapons attacks near Damascus, in front the United Nations headquarters in Beirut

Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen had asked Kerry to comment on the expenses related to carrying out attacks on Syria if Congress were to authorize them.

Following through on a use-of-force resolution, she said, 'could potentially cost ... billions.'

But Kerry said other nations that see Assad as a destabilizing force in the region have proposed to cover the costs. As for 'the details of the offer, and the proposal on the table,' Ros-Lehtinen asked Kerry, 'what are the figures we are talking about?

'We don’t know what action we [will be] engaged in right now,' Kerry replied, 'but they have been quite significant. I mean, very significant.'

'In fact, some of them have said that if the U.S. is prepared to go do the whole thing, the way we’ve done it previously in other places, they’ll carry that cost. That’s how dedicated they are to this.'

Kerry: Arab countries willing to pay for US attack on Syria

Turkish soldiers already regularly patrol a long border with Syria, making that nation one of several with an interest in seeing Assad depart the region

Turkish soldiers already regularly patrol a long border with Syria, making that nation one of several with an interest in seeing Assad depart the region

Assad met Sept. 1 with Alaeddin Boroujerdi (L), who chairs the Iranian Shura Council's Committee for Foreign Policy and National Security. Iran had sent senior lawmakers to Damascus as a sign of solidarity

Not helping: Assad met Sept. 1 with Alaeddin Boroujerdi (L), who chairs the Iranian Shura Council's Committee for Foreign Policy and National Security. Iran had sent senior lawmakers to Damascus as a sign of solidarity

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was a dogged questioner, demanding to know how much a military action in Syria would cost. It was her line of questioning that led Kerry to disclose that other nations had offered to cover the bills

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was a dogged questioner, demanding to know how much a military action in Syria would cost. It was her line of questioning that led Kerry to disclose that other nations had offered to cover the bills

Kerry quickly clarified that the Pentagon was not planning to shake a tin cup in the Middle East in the hope of collecting donations.

'Obviously, that is not in the cards and nobody is talking about it,' he said. 'But they are talking about taking seriously getting this job done.'

Kerry also closed the loop on an embarrassing episode from his Senate testimony on Tuesday, when he said he wouldn't rule out the use of ground troops if hostilities in Syria were to escalate.

'There will be no boots on the ground,' he said Wednesday.

'The president has said that again and again. And there is nothing in this authorization that should contemplate it. And, we reiterate, no boots on the ground.'

MailOnline asked three different defense and national security analysts to estimate the cost of a 90-day military action in Syria, to include – at minimum – small arms for anti-Assad resistance groups, missiles and armed drones launched from the Mediterranean Sea, and military flights over Syria, launched from Turkey, after weapons stockpiles and anti-aircraft positions are destroyed.

While cautioning that their estimates must not be attributed to them by name, and with a caveat expressed by one analyst that 'this is all educated guesswork,' the estimates ranged from $5 to $21 billion.

'You'd think rocket and jet fuel would be cheaper in that part of the world,' said one, 'but no such luck. This won't be a cheap mission.'

Sheikh Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo¿an of Turkey

Lebanese President Michel Suleiman

Kerry isn't saying which Arab world leader or leaders offered to pay for a U.S.-led invasion of Syria, but candidates include Sheikh Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain (L), Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey (C), and President Michel Suleiman of Lebanon. Those withe the most money to spend include King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Emir Sabah IV Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of Kuwait (not pictured)

 

 

 

 

 

 

     

America and Russia in secret Syria talks as Moscow warns of nuclear catastrophe if US launches strikes at Assad's uranium reactor

  • Secret discussions continue behind the scenes as Obama and Putin maintain their chilly exteriors
  • Russia said on Wednesday that a military strike on Syria could have catastrophic effects if a missile hit a small reactor near Damascus
  • Russia says it's compiled 100-page report blaming Syrian rebels for a chemical weapons attack
  • Obama cancelled planned one-on-one talks with Putin in Moscow ahead of the G20 gathering
  • Meeting of the leading world economies is being held in St. Petersburg this week
  • Putin warned action against Syria without UN approval would be 'legitimizing aggression' and he called the U.S. liars
  • Obama said the credibility of the international community was on the line
  • China and emerging economic nations backed military restraint in Syria crisis
  • European Union leaders said there was 'no military solution to the Syrian conflict'
  • Pope Francis called on G20 leaders to 'lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution'
  • David Cameron has arrived – already facing suggestions he has been sidelined after ruling out British involvement
  • Today Russia is warning that a U.S. strike on Syria's atomic facilities might result in a nuclear catastrophe

With U.S. diplomats secretly talking with their Russian counterparts behind the scenes at the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg in hopes of avoiding a stalemate over Syria, publicly Moscow warned that a military strike on Syria could have catastrophic effects if a missile hit a small reactor near Damascus that contains radioactive uranium.

But a U.S. official attached to the United Nations delegation told MailOnline that while Obama's admission on Wednesday that U.S.-Russia relations have 'hit a wall,' the president's team is overreaching with an ambitious proposal that has no chance of success.

The talks started last week and are continuing both in Russia and New York, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly about bilateral diplomatic talks.

He explained that Russia is insisting that Obama call off a planned military strike against Syria if either house of Congress declines to authorize it.

Meanwhile, U.S. diplomats are insisting that the Russians bend in the opposite direction. They want Putin's government to entertain seriously a proposal from Saudi Arabia, which would require them to refrain from opposing UN Security Council resolutions pertaining to Syria and wind down its arms sales to Bashar al-Assad's regime.

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Obama and Putin

Obama and Putin

Iron grip: U.S. diplomats are secretly talking with their Russian counterparts behind the scenes at the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg in hopes of avoiding a stalemate over Syria, while Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin show their stoic game faces in public.

All eyes on them: The world's media watch as President Obama walks up to President Putin

All eyes on them: The world's media watch as President Obama walks up to President Putin

'The Russians are playing hardball,' the source said, 'and no one really knows right now if we can bend them.'

The Russian Foreign Ministry called on the U.N. nuclear agency to urgently assess the risk as the United States considers military action to punish Syria's government for an alleged gas attack.

'If a warhead, by design or by chance, were to hit the Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR) near Damascus, the consequences could be catastrophic,' a ministry statement said.

It said nearby areas could be contaminated by highly enriched uranium and that it would be impossible to account for the nuclear material after such a strike, suggesting it could fall into the hands of people who might use it as a weapon. Russia urged the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency secretariat to 'react swiftly' and present IAEA members 'an analysis of the risks linked to possible American strikes on the MNSR and other facilities in Syria'.

Moscow has been the most powerful ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, shielding him from tougher U.N. resolutions and warning that a Western military attack on Syria would raise tensions and undermine efforts to end the country's civil war.

'The IAEA is aware of the statement but has not received a formal request from the Russian Federation,' an IAEA spokesperson said. 'We will consider the questions raised if we receive such a request.'

The IAEA said in a report to member states last week that Syria had declared there was a 'small amount of nuclear material' at the MNSR, a type of research reactor usually fuelled by highly enriched uranium.
Strained

Strained: Obama canceled a planned one-on-one meeting with Putin in Moscow ahead of the G20 gathering as it became clear the pair would not find common ground on Syria

Nuclear expert Mark Hibbs, of the Carnegie Endowment think-tank, said the MNSR was a very small reactor and there would not be a lot of nuclear material there.

But he said there could be 'a serious local radiation hazard' if there was irradiated nuclear material in the reactor and it was dispersed by a weapon strike.

Olli Heinonen, a former IAEA chief inspector, said the core of such a reactor typically has 1 kg of highly-enriched uranium, much less than the 25 kg that would be sufficient to build an atomic bomb.

'Thus for nuclear explosive purposes it is of a limited value,' he said in an e-mailed comment. Any radioactive contamination, he added, 'would be a local problem'.

In 2007, Israel bombed a desert site in Syria that U.S. intelligence reports said was a nascent, North Korean-designed reactor geared to producing plutonium for nuclear weapons. Syria said the site, at Deir al-Zor, was a conventional military facility._

This comes as Russian Foreign Ministry officials said that they had compiled a 100-page report that details evidence that Syrian rebels and not forces loyal to President Bshar Assad carried out a deadly sarin nerve gas attack earlier this year.

A statement posted to the ministry's website said that a report had been delivered to the United Nations in July that included detailed scientific analysis from Khan al Asal, the site of the alleged prior attack.

Expectation:

Expectation: Britain is expecting progress on the key issues of tax, transparency and trade at the summit which Mr Cameron put at the heart of the UK presidency of the G8 at the Lough Erne summit in Northern Ireland earlier this year

G20 leaders hold working dinner at Russian palace

Obama arrives late to G20 dinner

Russian officials have said their investigation into the March 19th incident was conducted under the protocols established by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons - the international agency that governs the non-use of WMD.

Because of this report, the Russians have warned the United States and its allies not to rush into retaliation for the August 21 attack that shocked the world.

It added that the build up to potential military action bore all the hallmarks of the false claims and poor intelligence that preceded the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

'The Russian report is specific,' the ministry statement said according to McClatchy News Tribune. 'It is a scientific and technical document.'

The Russians also claimed that the focus on the August attack has diverted attention away from the March 19th incident.

However, another chemical weapons expert, Jean Pascal Zanders questioned the Russian assertion that the sarin mix appeared to be dated from the Second World War.

'The Western Allies were not aware of the nerve agents until after the occupation of Germany,' he wrote in an email to the McClatchy Report.

'The USA, for example, struggled with the sarin (despite having some of the German scientists) until the 1950s, when the CW program expanded considerably.'

The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but a second source at the UN said on background that talks are ongoing, and that the United States wants Russia to abstain from any Security Council votes condemning Syria.

Putin said Wednesday that his government 'doesn't exclude' going along with a UN resolution, but he is relying on its Security Council veto as a cudgel to attack the U.S.

The Russian president, a long-time ally of the Syrian dictator, said he could authorize his UN representative to support a resolution responding to the Syrian sarin gas attack on August 21 if the Security Council is provided with 'evidence that would be obvious and prove beyond doubt who did it'. But he said that a US strike in the absence of Security Council approval would amount to an unprovoked invasion.

'Anything outside the framework of the UN Security Council is aggression, other than self-defense,' Putin said at the Kremlin. 'What Congress and the Senate are doing now is essentially legitimizing aggression. This is unacceptable.'

He went on to call Kerry a liar. 'This was very unpleasant and surprising for me. We talk to them (the Americans), and we assume they are decent people, but he is lying and he knows that he is lying. This is sad,' Putin told the council.

Tense? Putin greets Obama at G20 in Russia

This evening Obama was looking increasingly isolated on Syria as China, the European Union, emerging economic nations and Pope Francis - in a letter - warned of the dangers of military intervention without the approval of the U.N. Security Council.

Chinese Vice Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao said: 'Military action would have a negative impact on the global economy, especially on the oil price - it will cause a hike in the oil price.'

The BRICS - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - echoed that remark, and the Pope, who leads the world's 1.2billion Roman Catholics, urged the G20 leaders to 'lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution'

European Union leaders described the Aug 21 attack near Damascus, which killed up to 1,400 people, as 'abhorrent' but said: 'There is no military solution to the Syrian conflict.'

However, Obama said before talks with Japan's prime minister that the use of chemical arms in Syria was 'not only a tragedy but also a violation of international law that must be addressed.'

Aides said he would set out his views at the leaders' dinner and hoped to build support for military action, although aides acknowledge a consensus might be hard to find.

U.S. President Barack Obama, right, speaks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin during arrivals

U.S. President Barack Obama, right, speaks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin

Scrutiny: U.S. President Barack Obama, right, speaks with Russia's President Vladimir Putin during arrivals

Smile for the cameras:

Smile for the cameras: President Putin welcomes Prime Minister David Cameron. Mr. Cameron was keen to support military intervention, but he lost a parliamentary vote on the issue last week

Welcome

Welcome: President Putin speaks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel before the first working session of the G20 Summit in Constantine Palace

White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said: 'We would not anticipate every member of the G20 agreeing about the way forward in Syria, particularly given the Russian position over many, many months now in terms of resisting efforts to hold the Assad regime accountable.'

Putin was isolated on Syria at a Group of Eight meeting in June, the last big summit of world powers, but could now turn the tables on Obama, who recently likened him to a 'bored kid in the back of the classroom' who slouches at meetings.

Only France, which has already said it is preparing to join U.S. military action, rallied loudly behind Obama.

'We are convinced that if there is no punishment for Mr. Assad, there will be no negotiation,' French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said before leaving for St. Petersburg.

With backing by Beijing and Moscow unlikely at the U.N. Security Council, where both have veto powers, Obama is seeking the approval of the U.S. Congress instead.
Putin says rebel forces may have carried out the poison gas attack and that any military strike without Security Council approval would violate international law, a view now being supported increasingly openly by others - including countries that have usually disagreed with Moscow on Syria.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi are also in St. Petersburg to push for diplomacy rather than military options, and support efforts to organise an international peace conference on Syria.

Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, portrayed the 'camp of supporters of a strike on Syria' as divided, and said: 'It is impossible to say that very many states support the idea of a military operation.'

Peskov also reiterated that the United States had failed to produce convincing proof that Assad, who is backed by Russian arms, and his forces had resorted to chemical warfare.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel saw no chance of agreement between Putin and Obama on Syria. U.S.-Russian ties have long been strained by political differences but went into freefall when Russia harboured Edward Snowden, a former spy agency contractor who leaked details of U.S. intelligence programmes.

The past 24 hours have not boded well for the Obama administration's military plans in Syria. MailOnline reported Wednesday night that despite Secretary of State John Kerry's assurances that there would be 'no boots on the ground, the Department of Defense determined 20 months ago that securing Assad's chemical weapons would require 75,000 or more ground troops.

President Barack Obama, left, listens as Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, speaks during the start of the G-20 Working Session

President Barack Obama, left, listens as Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, speaks during the start of the G-20 Working Session

A

A U.S. official attached to the United Nations delegation told MailOnline that while Obama's admission on Wednesday that U.S.-Russia relations have 'hit a wall,' the president's team is overreaching with an ambitious proposal that has no chance of success

U.S. President Barack Obama attends the first working session of the G20 Summit

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron attends the first working session

Decisions: Putin said Wednesday that his government 'doesn't exclude' going along with a UN resolution, but he is relying on its Security Council veto as a cudgel to attack the U.S

President Putin reads a statement at the opening of the session.

President Putin reads a statement at the opening of the session. The seating plan at the summit has reportedly been adjusted to put physical distance between him and President Obama

David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend the first working session of the summit.

David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend the first working session of the summit. Germany said it has no plans for military action in Syria

Welcome:

Welcome: US President Barack Obama, left, and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, shake hands before the start of their bilateral meeting

Talks: US President Barack Obama and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, during their meeting at the G20 Summit

Talks: US President Barack Obama and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, during their meeting at the G20 Summit

China's President Xi Jinping, left, and Russia's President Vladimir Putin speak with each other during a bilateral meeting at the G20 summit this morning

China's President Xi Jinping, left, and Russia's President Vladimir Putin speak with each other during a bilateral meeting at the G20 summit this morning

Obama last night cleared the first hurdle to obtaining Congressional approval for a strike, as the influential Senate Foreign Affairs Committee backed the use of force by a margin of 10-7, moving the measure to a full Senate vote next week.

The proposal allows the use of force for 60 days, with the possibility of a 30-day extension.

But while the Senate moves steadily toward passage, the resolution increasingly appeared doomed in the House of Representatives. Various media-driven 'whip counts' – which predict how a vote will turn out based on public statements of members of Congress – estimate that as many as 200 of the 435 voting House members have already said they will oppose the measure.

With tensions running high over Syria in the run-up to an expected US military assault, the stage has been set for one of the most strained international summits in recent years.

The seating plan at the G20 summit has reportedly been adjusted to put physical distance between host President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama.

But the pair were quick to put on a show of smiles when Putin greeted Obama as he arrived at the Konstantin Palace in St. Petersburg this afternoon.

Ahead of the meeting of the leading world economies in St. Petersburg, Putin warned that action without UN approval would be 'an aggression' as the relationship between the two countries reaches it lowest point since the Cold War.

But President Obama, who is leading the international drive for an armed response to President Bashar Assad's apparent breach of the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons, said the credibility of the international community was on the line.

Focus

Focus: The G20 summit is expected to be dominated by the issue of military action in Syria while issues surrounding the global economy, including tax avoidance by multinationals, will also be discussed during the two-day summit

Arrival: South Korean President Park Geun-hye, left, shakes hands with Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta at the start of their bilateral talks during the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, 05 September 2013.

Arrival: South Korean President Park Geun-hye, left, shakes hands with Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta at the start of their bilateral talks

Change of plan

Change of plan: Constantine Palace which is hosting the G20 summit. Ahead of the meeting of the leading world economies in St Petersburg, Mr Putin warned that action without UN approval would be 'an aggression'

Grand:

Grand: The palace, which will be the venue for an evening dinner was founded in 1715 by the first Russian Emperor Peter the Great and used as a summer residence that was meant to outshine the French Versailles

World stage: Constantine Palace in St. Petersburg, the venue for G20 leaders

World stage: Constantine Palace in St. Petersburg, the venue for G20 leaders

VATICAN DENIES REPORTS THAT POPE FRANCIS CALLED ASSAD TO DISCUSS SYRIA

It was reported by a newspaper in Argentina today that the Pope had called Bashar al-Assad.

Clarin newspaper said that Pope Francis had called Assad in the last few hours' and speculated that he may call the White House and France over the Syria crisis.

But a Vatican spokesman later issued a denial and instead said that Pope Francis had written about the crisis in Syria to Putin.

David Cameron arrived in Russia this morning and is already facing suggestions that he has been sidelined after ruling out British involvement in any military action in the wake of his shock Commons defeat last week.

He is not expected to have a formal bilateral meeting with President Obama.

The president has said he is confident of receiving approval from Congress for 'limited and proportionate' military action, which he said would not involve US troops putting 'boots on the ground' in Syria.

Assad had flouted a chemical weapons ban enshrined in treaties signed by governments representing 98 per cent of the world's population, he said, adding: 'I didn't set a red line. The world set a red line.'

Speaking in Sweden as he traveled to St. Petersburg, the US president said the credibility of the international community was 'on the line' if it allowed Assad to act with impunity.

He repeated his 'high confidence' that the regime was to blame for the sarin gas attack on a suburb of Damascus on August 21 which the White House believes killed more than 1,400 people, including 400 children.

But today Russia is warning that a U.S. strike on Syria's atomic facilities might result in a nuclear catastrophe and is urging the U.N. to present a risk analysis of such a scenario.

The warning comes from Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Alexander Lukashevich.

He said in a statement that a strike on a miniature reactor near Damascus or other nuclear installations could contaminate the region with radioactivity, adding: 'The consequences could be catastrophic.'

IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor told the AP in an email that her agency is ready to 'consider the questions raised' by Lukashevich if it receives a formal request to do so from Moscow.

Russia's Interfax news agency says that Moscow intends to bring up the issue at next week's 35-nation IAEA board meeting.

Meanwhile, France's prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, rallying support for French involvement in military action, told the National Assembly in Paris there was no doubt the Syrian government was to blame and a failure to react would allow Assad to launch a similar attack again.

Determined

Determined: President Obama, who is leading the international drive for an armed response to President Bashar Assad's apparent breach of the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons, said the credibility of the international community was on the line

French President Francois Hollande (front) walks down the stairs

US President Barack Obama disembarks from Air Force One

Deep in thought:  US President Barack Obama disembarks from Air Force One, right,  this morning as well as French President Francois Hollande, left

Testing time:

Testing time: David Cameron arrived in Russia this morning and is already facing suggestions that he has been sidelined after ruling out British involvement in any military action in the wake of his shock Commons defeat last week

 David Cameron and George Osbourne, British Chancellor of the Exchequer arrive at the G20 summit

David Cameron and George Osbourne, British Chancellor of the Exchequer arrive at the G20 summit

But Putin continues to say any evidence on culpability for the attack should be presented to the UN Security Council – where Russia has repeatedly blocked reprisals against  Assad.

Obama cancelled a planned one-on-one meeting with Putin in Moscow ahead of the G20 gathering as it became clear the pair would not find common ground on Syria.

Mr. Cameron has said he will make the case at the G20 for a robust international response to the use of chemical weapons.

And he promised to use Britain's 'diplomatic muscle' to press the international community to increase its support for an estimated two million civilians forced to flee their homes during Syria's two-year civil war.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrives in St. Petersburg

Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde arrives in St. Petersburg yesterday

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon arrives in St. Petersburg as well as Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde

South Korea's President Park Geun-Hye is welcomed as she arrives at Saint Petersburg's airport

South Korea's President Park Geun-Hye is welcomed as she arrives at Saint Petersburg's airport

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, left, arrives in St. Petersburg, Russia on

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner speaks with journalists as she arrives in St. Petersburg

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, left, arrives in St. Petersburg, Russia

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, centre, greets members of the Indian delegation as he arrives

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, centre, greets members of the Indian delegation as he arrives

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, left, and his wife Gloria Bongi Ngema step off the plane in St. Petersburg

 President of Senegal Macky Sall

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, left, and his wife Gloria Bongi Ngema step off the plane in St. Petersburg as well as  President of Senegal Macky Sall

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, arrives in Russia for the meeting

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, arrives in Russia for the meeting

Evening Meeting: G20 Summit members walk together after the first day of the G20 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The G20 summit is expected to be dominated by the issue of military action in Syria

Evening Meeting: G20 Summit members walk together after the first day of the G20 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The G20 summit is expected to be dominated by the issue of military action in Syria

In this handout image provided by Host Photo Agency, Russian President Vladimir Putin (5th L) walks with G20 Summit members after the first day of the G20 in St. Petersburg, Russia

In this handout image provided by Host Photo Agency, Russian President Vladimir Putin (5th L) walks with G20 Summit members after the first day of the G20 in St. Petersburg, Russia

French President Francois Hollande, (second left), speaks with British Prime Minister David Cameron, left, as they walk to a dinner event that will take place with other G-20 leaders at Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013

French President Francois Hollande, (second left), speaks with British Prime Minister David Cameron, left, as they walk to a dinner event that will take place with other G-20 leaders at Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013

British Prime Minister David Cameron (2-L) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (2-R) before the first working session of G20 summit in Constantine palace outside St. Petersburg, Russia, 05 September 2013

British Prime Minister David Cameron (2-L) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel (2-R) before the first working session of G20 summit in Constantine palace outside St. Petersburg, Russia, 05 September 2013

US President Barack Obama (C) talks to Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta (L) and British Prime Minister David Cameron (R) before the first working session of G20 summit in Constantine Palace outside St. Petersburg, Russia

US President Barack Obama (C) talks to Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta (L) and British Prime Minister David Cameron (R) before the first working session of G20 summit in Constantine Palace outside St. Petersburg, Russia

Britain has already contributed £348 million to the humanitarian relief effort and Mr. Cameron is expected to announce further aid in St. Petersburg as he urges fellow leaders to dig deep for a UN appeal which has so far received less than half of the sums requested.

He will also seek agreement from fellow leaders on the need for better access for humanitarian workers to those affected by the fighting – including the establishment of safe routes for aid convoys and the removal of bureaucratic obstacles to non-governmental agencies trying to enter Syria to provide help on the ground.

The Prime Minister confirmed on Tuesday that the UK 'can't be part and won't be part' of any military strike as a result of his Commons defeat last week, but warned that it would be 'perilous' for the international community to let Assad escape unpunished.

He told MPs: 'If no action is taken following President Obama's red line and if no action is taken following this appalling use of chemical weapons, you have to ask yourself what sort of Armageddon are the Syrian people going to be facing?... I think we would see more chemical weapons attacks from the regime.'

Syria does not even feature on the formal agenda for the summit of an organisation which brings together 20 of the world's most important economies to discuss issues like growth, financial stability and recovery from the global downturn.

President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso (L) talks to British Prime Minister David Cameron (R) before the first working session of G20 summit in Constantine palace outside St. Petersburg, Russia, 05 September 2013

President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso (L) talks to British Prime Minister David Cameron (R) before the first working session of G20 summit in Constantine palace outside St. Petersburg, Russia, 05 September 2013

General view of the dinner table of the G20 summit at Peterhof Palace on September 5, 2013 in Saint Petersburg. Russia hosts the G20 summit hoping to push forward an agenda to stimulate growth but with world leaders are distracted by Syria

General view of the dinner table of the G20 summit at Peterhof Palace on September 5, 2013 in Saint Petersburg. Russia hosts the G20 summit hoping to push forward an agenda to stimulate growth but with world leaders are distracted by Syria

Protests

Protests: A dozen art workers from the Muzei Vlasti tried to stage a protest against G20 Summit and took out the artwork by Russian artist Konstantin Altunin to unfold it for passers-by in downtown St. Petersburg but police withdrew it

Russian policemen detain an opposition activist, who tried to display a cartoon showing G20 leaders

Russian policemen detain an opposition activist, who tried to display a cartoon showing G20 leaders

An activist shows his posters for no international military intervention in the ongoing conflict in Syria to a policeman, as he pickets in Saint Petersburg

An activist shows his posters for no international military intervention in the ongoing conflict in Syria to a policeman, as he pickets in Saint Petersburg

But the crisis is certain to dominate discussions on the margins of the two-day meeting, which comes amid indications of healthier recovery in countries like the UK, US and Japan, but faltering growth in emerging economies like China.

Britain will aim to use the formal proceedings in St. Petersburg to press for progress on priorities like tax transparency, reforms to the financial services sector and free trade. The UK will resist an expected push by Brazil and Argentina to water down anti-protectionist language in the summit communique.

Following phone calls in recent days with Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper and European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, Mr. Cameron will be pressing for the completion of an EU-Canada free trade deal which eluded him at the Lough Erne G8 summit hosted by the UK in Northern Ireland earlier this year.

He will be joined by Chancellor George Osborne, as well as the Bank of England's Mark Carney, who is the only central bank governor to attend in his role as chair of the international Financial Stability Board.

 

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