SAINT PETERSBURG, Russia: Russia has nothing to add to the political debate on Syria in the United States, a White House official said on Friday, also signalling that Washington is ready to take punitive action against the Syrian regime without the UN Security Council's backing.
"I don't know that the Russians have anything to add to the debate in the United States, given that we know where Russia stands on this issue," said Ben Rhodes, President Barack Obama's deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, after senior Russian lawmakers expressed a desire to visit Washington and persuade Congress not to approve military action against Syria.
"They've continually supported (President Bashar al-) Assad no matter what the facts show, and no matter what the regime does. So again, on the issue of chemical weapons, we don't expect to have Russian cooperation," he said.
The Obama administration wants to punish the Syrian regime for allegedly carrying out an August 21 chemical attack in the Damascus suburbs that it says killed more than 1,400 people.
"What we've repeatedly seen is Russia refusing to take action... (and hold) the Assad regime accountable and again seeking to work through different processes to avoid the core issues.
"We can't have an endless process at the UN Security Council that doesn't lead to anything," he said.
Russia and China -- both veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council -- have on three occasions voted down resolutions that would have put pressure on Assad since the Syria uprising began about two-and-a-half years ago.
Earlier this week, Putin publicly endorsed plans by Russian parliamentarians to send a delegation to Washington, apparently hoping to persuade their US counterparts to vote down Obama's request for military strike authorisation.
But John Boehner, the top Republican in the US House of Representatives, has rejected the request to meet the delegation.
In Moscow, the speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament Sergei Naryshkin said he "deeply" regretted the US lawmakers' refusal to meet with their Russian counterparts.
The refusal was "a testament to the fact that our American partners realise the weakness of their own position," he said in comments posted on the State Duma website.
"And (it)also speaks of their attitude towards the norms of international law," he said.