Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Obama and Putin Square Up as Fears Grow over Syria's WMD

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Obama and Putin Square Up as Fears Grow over Syria's WMD

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Murphy Political Editor in St Petersburg

BARACK OBAMA and Vladimir Putin prepared for a showdown over the Middle East today, amid fears that Syria could unleash biological weapons.

The US and Russian leaders were due to come face to face at the St Petersburg G20 summit as tensions rose over US plans to launch military strikes against Bashar Assad's regime. In claims that echoed the build-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, intelligence officials said Assad was "likely" to possess the ingredients of a biological weapon, including lethal bacteria and viruses. He is also alleged to have equipment needed to convert them into powders and aerosols to deliver their payload to military or civilian populations, reported the Washington Post.

America has accused the regime of slaughtering 1,400 people, including hundreds of children, in a chemical weapons attack, thought to be sarin, last month. "We are worried about sarin, but Syria also has biological weapons, and compared to those, sarin is nothing," said a senior Middle Eastern intelligence official.

Officials in Washington continued to sabre rattle, briefing that US bombers could join in an attack on Syria with so-called bunker-busting bombs.

However, Russian president Mr Putin has countered US moves towards military action by ordering a giant missilecarrying warship to the eastern Mediterranean and hinted that he could give a missile shield system to Iran if Syria was attacked.

Mr Putin has also warned that an attack on Syria would be an "act of aggression" without UN support.

So far, China has sided with Russia at the UN Security Council to block tougher action against Assad. Beijing also warned today that missile strikes could send oil prices spiralling and damage the global economy.

While David Cameron has warned of the "perils" of failing to act over the chemical weapons attack, he has also firmly ruled out British military action after MPs voted against it last week.

With the UK sidelined from military involvement, Mr Obama is due to hold a bilateral meeting in St Petersburg with French president Francois Hollande, who is one of the strongest supporters of missile strikes. …

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