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Steve Israel challenges Putin in op-ed

Rep. Steve Israel is seeking to challenge Russian President Vladimir Putin on his opposition to the proposed U.S. strike on Syria for chemical weapons use -- by offering his own op-ed to a privately published independent Russian newspaper.

Israel (D-Huntington) submitted an "open letter" to the Russian people to the Russian daily Kommersant -- Businessman in English -- a day after Putin explained why he opposes U.S. military action in an opinion piece in The New York Times on Wednesday.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also will be submitting an op-ed to rebut Putin to Pravda, the newspaper of the Russian Federation's Communist Party, a McCain spokesman said.

In his 523-word piece, Israel stresses his family's Russian roots and states his case for congressional support for United States military action against Syria for killing 1,400 Syrians with sarin gas.

Israel argues that a "firm response" is needed to deter Syrian President Bashar Assad from gassing more people, keep Syria's chemical weapons from falling into the "wrong hands" and reinforce the message to Hezbollah, Iran and North Korea that "there will be consequences" for using deadly gas.

Israel challenges Putin to join the United States in forcing Syria to verify and put its chemical weapon stocks under international control.

"Your President has told the United States that he is interested in doing this," Israel writes. "Now we await his words turning into deeds."

Israel also takes issue with Putin's criticism of President Barack Obama's remarks in a speech Tuesday that when "with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death . . . I believe we should act. That's what makes America different. That's what makes us exceptional."

Putin called it "extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation."

Israel writes: "As an American, I hold the exceptionalism of my country dear. I also know of the many exceptional achievements our two countries made together, such as defeating Nazism and discovering Space."

Israel spokeswoman Samantha Slater said Friday that she had talked to a Kommersant editor, who expressed interest in the piece, but received no guarantee that it will run.

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