US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said on Friday that Syrian President Bashar Assad had barely dented his stockpile of chemical weapons in an alleged attack near Damascus last month.
"We assess that although Assad used more chemical weapons on August 21 than he had before, he has barely put a dent in his enormous stockpile," she said at the Center for American Progress think tank in Washington.
"We have exhausted the alternatives" to military action, she said, adding that Assad must have weighed the fact that Russia would back him in the controversy over his alleged use of chemical weapons and it was naive to think Russia would change.
President Vladimir Putin made clear on Friday that Russia did not want to be sucked into a war over Syria, signaling that Moscow would maintain current levels of support to Damascus in the case of foreign military intervention.
Asked at the end of a Group of Twenty summit whether Russia would help Syria in such circumstances, Putin made no reference to defending the Middle Eastern nation or increasing military assistance.
"Will we help Syria? We will. We are helping them now. We supply weapons, we cooperate in the economic sphere, and I hope we will cooperate more in the humanitarian sphere ... to provide help for those people - civilians - who are in a difficult situation today," Putin said.
He echoed comments by other Russian officials who have said Moscow will not allow itself to be drawn into the conflict.
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