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U.S. official takes Russia to task for its role in Syrian conflict

A senior Obama administration official lashed out at Russia over Syria on Friday night, saying the country can’t expect to host a “happy Olympics” at the same time it is supporting the “brutal” regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The official was answering questions from reporters after a bilateral meeting between President Obama and Jordanian King Abdullah II that focused largely on the Syrian conflict.

Seizing on Russia’s role as host of this year’s ongoing Winter Olympics in Sochi, the official said Moscow was being disingenuous in its approach to the conflict in Syria, where three years of violence has claimed 140,000 lives, according to an estimate released Saturday by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based activist group.

“They can’t have it both ways,” the senior official said of the Russians. “They can’t say they’re in favor of negotiations in Geneva and a transitional governing body with full executive authority and humanitarian access and have a happy Olympics, and then be part and parcel of supporting this regime as it kills people in the most brutal way.”

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe details of the bilateral meeting, said the United States hopes to push forward with a U.N. Security Council resolution providing for greater humanitarian relief in Syria. Jordan has started a two-year term on the council.

The official held out hope that Russia, one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, could support such a resolution, but did not exude confidence.

“As long as they remain wedded to the status quo, this is going to be a very difficult problem to resolve,” the official said. “They have a pretty sorry record, having thrice double-vetoed, with the Chinese, quite anodyne resolutions. So I don’t think any of us have any expectation that they are going to turn on a dime.”

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