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Reid, Boehner decline to meet Russian lawmakers

Thursday - 9/5/2013, 9:50pm  ET

WILL LESTER
Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner have declined invitations to meet with a planned delegation of Russian lawmakers to discuss Syria.

Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson confirmed Thursday that Reid had turned down the offer. Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said the speaker had also declined the offer.

"We are really disappointed by their decision not to meet with their Russian colleagues," said Maxim Abramov, spokesman for the Russian Embassy.

Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed on Monday to send a delegation of Russian lawmakers to the United States to discuss the situation in Syria with members of Congress.

Top Russian legislators had suggested that to Putin, saying polls have shown little support among Americans for armed intervention in Syria to punish its regime for an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack on a Damascus suburb.

The refusal comes at a time of heightened tensions between Russia and the U.S. on issues such as Syria, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and human rights. Putin has opposed a U.S. attack on Syria, but has said he might support a U.N. resolution on punitive military strikes if it is proved that Damascus used poison gas on its own people.

This summer, Russia granted Snowden temporary asylum after he fled the U.S. and leaked NSA documents about surveillance programs to the media. Obama canceled a one-on-one meeting with Putin planned for this week's G-20 economic summit in Russia. The two met briefly and exchanged casual pleasantries Thursday in a short encounter.


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