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Russia: We have Syrian guarantees on chemical arms

Syrian deputy premier Qadri Jamil smiles during a press conference in Moscow, on August 21, 2012.
ANDREY SMIRNOV/AFP/GettyImages

(CBS/AP) MOSCOW - The Russian Foreign Ministry's point man on Syria says Moscow has guarantees from the Syrian government that it will not use or move its chemical weapons.

Speaking in an interview to The Associated Press on Thursday, Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said that Russia is working closely with the Syrian government to make sure its arsenal of chemical weapons remains securely in place and does not fall into the hands of terrorists.

President Barack Obama warned earlier this week that the United States might be forced to intervene in the Syrian civil war if the Syrian government were to use or move such weapons of mass destruction.

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Gatilov said Russia is in full agreement with the Americans on the need to prevent Syria's chemical weapons from being used.

That may be one of the few things the Russians and Americans agree upon when it comes to Syria.

Russia accused Western powers Wednesday of "openly instigating" Syrian opposition groups to take up arms in their fight to unseat President Bashar Assad.

Moscow has been Syria's key protector throughout the 17-month uprising that has evolved into a full-blown civil war, shielding Assad's regime from international sanctions and providing it with weapons despite an international outcry.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said the West "has done nothing" to urge the Syrian opposition to start a dialogue with the government.

"Instead, they are engaged in openly instigating it to continue their armed struggle," it said in a statement.

It claimed that the Western approach to the Syrian civil is "hypocritical" and is not helping to resolve the conflict that has killed an estimated 19,000 people.

Russia has said that its opposition to sanctions against Syria is driven not by support for Assad himself, but by a respect for international law that forbids foreign military intervention in internal conflicts without U.N. Security Council authorization.

Russia has called for talks between the Syrian regime and its foes. It staunchly opposes any plans that would demand Assad's ouster, saying that only the Syrian people can decide the country's fate.

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