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Amid Russia's warning, India and US to discuss Syria

Amid Russias warning, India and US to discuss Syria

New Delhi: Against the backdrop of the US threatening unilateral action against Syria and Russia warning against it, India and the US are set to appraise the situation in the violence-torn Middle East country when the US's envoy to the UN Susan Rice holds talks here Wednesday.

Syria will be among a slew of key international issues Rice will discuss with Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon.

She will also call on External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna.

"Rice will hold meetings with senior Indian officials to discuss a range of bilateral and multilateral issues including peace-keeping, regional cooperation, and Syria," the US embassy said here ahead of the talks.

Rice, US President Barack Obama's trusted adviser on foreign policy issues, is also expected to discuss situation in Iran and other multilateral issues like the UN Security Council reforms.

At the meeting, India is expected to back a UN-led solution to the Syrian crisis and make a strong case that the UN should be given another chance to break the logjam, said reliable sources.

Rice's visit takes place amid the escalating crisis in Syria, where the stalemate between the Bashar Al Assad regime and armed opposition activists is thickening against the larger backdrop of the power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Middle East.

Indian diplomats are also expected to update Rice on the recent conference called by Iran, the principal backer of the Assad regime, to push an "indigenous solution" that focuses on political reconciliation to resolve the Syrian crisis.

India sent a mid-level diplomat in the foreign office to the ministerial conference last week on Syria in Tehran.

India's calibrated shift of stance was reflected in its abstention on a vote on a recent Saudi-backed resolution on Syria in the UN General Assembly.

Signalling a changed assessment of ground realities in Syria, India, which had voted earlier for the West-backed resolutions in the UN Security Council, decided to abstain as it contained a reference to the Arab League's resolution for Assad to step down.

On Monday, Obama warned Assad not to cross a "red line" of even shifting unconventional weapons (biological and chemical weapons) in a threatening manner.

"We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is (if) we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilised," Obama had said. "That would change my calculus."

Russia, a staunch ally of Damascus, Tuesday warned the West against any unilateral action on Syria, with its Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying that Moscow and Beijing were committed to "the need to strictly adhere to the norms of international law...and not to allow their violation."

There will also be some track-II events. Rice will meet with Indian women leaders and participate in an event focusing on child and infant survival that honours Eleanor Roosevelt, the spouse of iconic US President Franklin Roosevelt and is in support of Unicef. The event is hosted by US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell.


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