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U.S. slams 'red carpet' Assad welcome in Moscow

By Andrew V. Pestano
The United States condemned Russia's welcome of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the embattled leader's visit to Moscow where he held talks with President Vladimir Putin. Assad made a surprise visit to Moscow on Tuesday, his first international trip since his country's civil war began in 2011. Photo courtesy of the Kremlin
The United States condemned Russia's welcome of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the embattled leader's visit to Moscow where he held talks with President Vladimir Putin. Assad made a surprise visit to Moscow on Tuesday, his first international trip since his country's civil war began in 2011. Photo courtesy of the Kremlin

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22 (UPI) -- The United States has condemned Russia's welcome of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during the embattled leader's visit to Moscow where he held talks with President Vladimir Putin.

Eric Schultz, principal deputy of the White House press secretary, said Russia's actions are viewed by the administration of President Barack Obama as a "red carpet welcome for Assad, who has used chemical weapons against his own people."

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Schultz said the documented use of chemical weapons by the regime contradicts the goals Assad "stated" as a necessary political solution to the Syrian crisis.

"This doesn't change anything about the situation in Syria," Schultz told reporters Wednesday. "We still believe that Russia propping up Assad after he's turned his country into a civil war, after allowing extremists to flourish and creating the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II is only exacerbated by welcoming President Assad to Moscow."

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Assad made a surprise visit to Moscow on Tuesday, his first international trip since his country's civil war began in 2011.

During the visit, Assad praised Russia's involvement in the Syrian civil war that helped stop the spread of "terrorism" that was becoming "more widespread and harmful." Putin thanked Assad for visiting despite the "dramatic situation" back home.

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More than 250,000 people have died and more than 4 million have been displaced by the Syrian civil war. A U.S.-led coalition has carried out more than 7,000 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq for more than a year.

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"We urge Russia to use its influence with the Syrian regime to press for a political transition, because we know right now what they're doing is counterproductive," Schultz added.

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