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US: Russia's prestige on line with Syria

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin gives a press conference on September 6, 2013 in Saint Petersburg
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin gives a press conference on September 6, 2013 in Saint Petersburg.

The White House pointedly noted Wednesday that Moscow's "prestige" was now on the line in the Syria crisis, as diplomatic maneuvering accelerated ahead of crucial US-Russia talks in Geneva.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said it would be interesting to see how the dynamic develops between Moscow and its ally Damascus in the effort to secure Syria's chemical weapons.

"Russia is now putting its prestige on the line when it comes to moving further along this diplomatic avenue," Carney said.

"Russia is (President Bashar al-) Assad's and Syria's closest ally. Russia has played the role of blocking international efforts thus far to hold Assad accountable," he added.

Since the start of Syria's civil war, Washington has frequently vented frustration about Moscow's refusal to hold Assad's government to account.

Asked whether the US government believed that Syria would desist from using chemical weapons again to avoid embarrassing President Vladimir Putin, Carney would not give a direct answer.

But he said: "Assad depends on Russia in many ways for support ... and so it stands to reason ... that Assad would care about the position Russia holds on this specific matter."

The White House spin appeared to be an effort to turn the tables on Moscow after President Barack Obama spent weeks under pressure, with his own prestige apparently on the line, after Syria infringed his "red line" and allegedly fired off chemical weapons.

The latest comments came hours before US Secretary of State John Kerry leaves for Geneva to discuss Moscow's plan to secure Syria's chemical weapons with his opposite number Sergei Lavrov.

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