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Syria rebels using truce to regroup: Putin

MOSCOW: President of Russia, Vladimir Putin on Saturday has accused Syrian rebels of using a fragile ceasefire to regroup, as diplomatic tensions between Moscow and Washington simmered over a lack of humanitarian aid access.

Fresh shelling and clashes were reported overnight in some areas of the war-torn country, but the US-Russia brokered truce which took effect on Monday appeared to be largely holding.

In New York, the UN Security Council cancelled an urgent meeting that had been called to discuss whether to endorse the ceasefire, billed as the “last chance” to end the five-year war that has killed 300,000 people.

The closed-door consultations were scrapped after Moscow and Washington failed to agree over disclosing details of the ceasefire to the council.

Putin, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said he remained “positive” about the truce but lashed out at rebels.

“We see attempts to regroup among these terrorists, to switch one label for another, one name for another and keep their military capacity,” he said in televised remarks while on a trip to Kyrgyzstan.

Putin said Washington apparently “has the desire to keep the capabilities to fight the lawful government of President Assad,” calling it a “very dangerous path.”

Moscow said Friday that it was ready to prolong the truce by 72 hours, but there has been no formal announcement of an extension.

The implementation of the truce has been complicated by the presence of jihadists — who are not covered by the ceasefire — and mainstream rebels on some of the same frontlines.

A challenge for Washington is to persuade opposition groups it backs to separate themselves from the former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front, previously called Al-Nusra Front. – AFP