Russia says Bashar al-Assad has no need to use chemical arms



Moscow: Russia said on Saturday there was no need for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to use chemical weapons against rebels because his forces were making steady advances on the ground.

"The regime, as the opposition is saying out in the open, is enjoying military success on the ground," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters during a joint press appearance with his Italian counterpart Emma Bonino.

"What sense is there for the regime to use chemical arms -- especially in such small amounts?" Lavrov asked.

Russia said on Friday it was unconvinced by US allegations that Assad had used chemical weapons against his own people.

US President Barack Obama's administration said on Thursday it would boost military support for the opposition as a result.

Russia has backed Assad's regime and has provided it with weapons.

Lavrov said it would be wrong for the US administration "to be sending signals" to the opposition that may scupper the chances of a peace conference being held in Geneva in the coming weeks.

He added that that a no-fly zone that Washington was reportedly thinking of implementing over a part of Syria near the Jordanian border "would in either case violate international law."

"We hope that our American colleagues will act in accordance with the implementation of the Russian-US initiative concerning preparations for an international conference on Syria," Lavrov said.

The so-called Geneva 2 talks are aimed at getting the two warring sides at the negotiating table for the first time.

The first conference in the Swiss city held last June failed to come up with a workable plan for transferring power to an interim government because it never specified a specific role for Assad.

Moscow has said that Assad's representatives were ready to attend the new Geneva talks and has faulted Washington for failing to secure a similar agreement from the rebels.

AFP