Russia concerned about possible U.S. military response in Syria

MOSCOW Mon Aug 26, 2013 2:00am EDT

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia has expressed its concern to Washington that the United States will respond militarily to a suspected chemical weapons attack by Syrian government forces and urged restraint, Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

Referring to a telephone conversation between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday, the ministry said Moscow had also urged Washington to refrain from falling for "provocations".

"The minister (Lavrov) stressed that the official announcements from Washington in recent days about the readiness of U.S. armed forces to 'intervene' in the Syrian conflict have been received in Moscow with deep concern," the ministry said in a statement.

U.S. remarks that Syria's agreement to allow the United Nations to inspect the site of the suspected chemical weapons attack was "too late to be credible" appeared to signal a military response was more likely.

A senior senator said he believed President Barack Obama would ask for authorization to use force when Congress returned from recess next month.

But Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has suggested rebels may have been behind the alleged chemical weapons attack.

"In connection with this, the Russian side calls for (Washington to) refrain from the threat of force on Damascus, to not fall for provocations and to try to help create normal conditions to give the U.N. chemical experts' mission, which is already in the country, the possibility of conducting a thorough, objective and impartial investigation," the statement said.

(Reporting by Katya Golubkova, writing by Elizabeth Piper, editing by Timothy Heritage)