By Matt Spetalnick and Lesley Wroughton WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House said on Friday it was working with partners to ratchet up pressure on Syria to accelerate removal of its chemical weapons after the United States accused it of deliberately stalling an international disarmament deal. The Obama administration stepped up criticism of President Bashar al-Assad’s government as Secretary of State John Kerry met Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Munich amid a U.S. push for Moscow to do more to win cooperation from its ally Damascus. Russia earlier rejected U.S. charges that Syria is dragging its feet on giving up chemical weapons, saying that a June 30 deadline to destroy Assad’s arsenal of toxic agents remains viable despite delays. “Syria must immediately take the necessary actions to comply with its obligations,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said at a briefing in Washington.
By Khaled Yacoub Oweis and Stephanie Nebehay GENEVA (Reuters) – A contentious week-long first round of Syrian peace talks ended on Friday with no progress towards ending the civil war and the government delegation unable to say whether it will return for the next round in 10 days. Darkening the atmosphere further, the United States and Russia clashed over the pace of Syria’s handover of chemical arms for destruction. Washington accused Damascus of foot-dragging that put the plan weeks behind schedule, and Moscow – President Bashar al-Assad’s big power ally – rejected this. The Obama administration said it was working with partners to ratchet up pressure on Syria to accelerate the process, but stopped short of threatening any action if Damascus did not get the chemical weapons deliveries back on track.
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Faith in the Middle East peace process has largely evaporated among Israelis and Palestinians in the two decades since the Oslo accords and a famous White House lawn handshake, a new poll found Friday. According to the Zogby Research Services poll, neither side has much confidence in the new push for peace being led by US Secretary of State John Kerry, which the pollsters believe is proving a hard sell. Although two decades have elapsed since then Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin shook hands watched by then US leader Bill Clinton, "it is clear several deep differences exist" plaguing the atmosphere between the two sides. "From the results of this poll, it is clear that the past 20 years have taken a toll on the confidence both Palestinians and Israelis have in the peace process that began with the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords," the poll said.
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