Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday (September 11) warned against a U.S. strike on Syria, saying such action risked escalating the conflict beyond that country and unleashing terrorist attacks.

Writing in the New York Times, Putin said there were "few champions of democracy" in the 2-1/2-year-old civil war in Syria, "but there are more than enough Qaeda fighters and extremists of all types battling the government."

He repeated assertions by his government and Damascus that an August chemical weapons attack that the United States blames on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government was likely the work of opposition forces seeking to provoke foreign intervention.

U.S. President Barack Obama wants to hold Assad accountable for the suspected attack in a Damascus neighbourhood on Aug. 21 that U.S. officials say killed about 1,400 people, including 400 children.

Putin cautioned against taking military action without U.N. Security Council authorization, saying, "We must stop using the language of force."

Putin said it was alarming that intervening militarily in foreign countries' internal conflicts had become "commonplace" for the United States.

He also rejected Obama's assertions of "American exceptionalism," saying: "It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional."

Russia has been Assad's most powerful backer during the civil war, which has killed more than 100,000 people since 2011, delivering arms and - with China - blocking three U.N. resolutions meant to pressure Assad.

Presented by Adam Justice

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