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Kerry to meet with European diplomats over possible Syrian strike

Sept. 7, 2013 at 11:24 AM   |   Comments

VILNIUS, Lithuania, Sept. 7 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was due to meet with more than a dozen European foreign ministers Saturday in a bid for action against Syria, officials said.

The meeting in Lithuania was to include European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, CNN reported. Afterward, Kerry was to travel to Paris to consult with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.

France is the only foreign nation yet to support military action against Syria in response to Syria's alleged use of chemical weapons against its own citizens.

While in Paris, Kerry is scheduled to meet Sunday with representatives of the Arab League. He is then expected to go to London for talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, as well as British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

The British parliament has ruled out any participation in action against Syria, but Prime Minister David Cameron has vowed to keep pushing for a response.

U.S. President Barack Obama met with Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday during a meeting of the world's top 20 economic powers in St. Petersburg. Russia has opposed any international military response to the Syrian conflict.

Obama described the meeting with Putin as "candid," but said Russia had not changed its position.

Putin concurred with Obama's assessment, saying, "he doesn't agree with me, I don't agree with him, but we listened to each other."

The U.S. State Department said Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov finally spoke by phone Thursday, RIA Novosti reported.

At a news briefing Friday, a department spokeswoman said they spoke for about 40 minutes. It was the first conversation between Kerry and Lavrov since Aug. 27, the spokeswoman said.

Lavrov accused Kerry of dodging his calls and of repeatedly refusing for the past week to set a time for a phone conversation.

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