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Syria

Russia and France still differ on Syria

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov have held talks on the Syrian crisis. The talks served only to confirm differences of opinion between the countries.

The French and Russian foreign ministers, meeting in Moscow on Tuesday, admitted that their two countries differed in their approach to the 30-month-old Syrian conflict.

The talks were held in an attempt to overcome disagreements over a new UN draft resolution on stripping Syria of its chemical arsenal,

Lavrov said that even though Moscow and Paris shared the goal of ending the bloodshed in Syria, "we have certain differences on the ways to reaching this."

His remarks were echoed by Fabius, who admitted there was a "difference in the approach on the methods."

Who was to blame?

One such difference was over whom to blame for a deadly poison gas attack in a suburb of the capital, Damascus, on August 21, with Fabius continuing to promote the French view that the Syrian regime under President Bashar al-Assad was behind the attack.

"When you look at the amount of sarin gas used, the vectors, the techniques behind such an attack, as well as other aspects, it seems to leave no doubt that the regime is behind it," Fabius told journalists.

Lavrov however reaffirmed Moscow's doubt that the Syrian government was responsible for the attack, saying "we have the most serious basis to believe that this was a provocation."

The United States, Britain and France all accuse the regime of carrying out the attack, which the US claims killed more than 1,400 people. The death toll has not been verified.

Disarmament plan

The talks came a day after United Nations inspectors who had visited the site of the attack confirmed that the nerve agent sarin had been used, without however assigning blame to either the regime or the rebels who are trying to overthrow it.

Syria last week accepted a landmark agreement proposed by its longtime supporter Russia to hand over its chemical weapons to the international community.

The agreement came as the US and France threatened to take military action against the Syrian regime in response to the chemical weapons attack.

France however continues to push for a tough UN Security Council resolution on Syria that calls for a threat of sanctions, without ruling out the military option, if Assad does not comply with the disarmament plan agreed last weekend at US-Russian talks.

Lavrov however said on Monday that any resolution using threats was detrimental to the plan and long-term hopes for peace in the war-torn country, and called instead for a resolution supporting the disarmament and to provide workers to secure Syria's chemical sites.

tj/ipj (AFP, Reuters)