Assad piles on demands amid chemical weapons talks

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Seeming to no longer fear a U.S. attack, an emboldened Bashar Assad is adding to his list of demands in exchange for handing over Syria’s chemical weapons, fueling concerns in Washington that — with Russia’s backing — he’s succeeding in turning the tables on Secretary of State John Kerry’s negotiating effort in Geneva.

“They’re just kind of playing with us,” Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told Fox News on Friday.

Kerry was meeting for a second day Friday with Russian and Syrian diplomats to try and work out the framework for a deal to have Syria hand over its chemical weapons to international control, and avert military action by the U.S.

Sensing perhaps that the threat of a U.S. military strike is no longer imminent, Assad is publicly trying to strengthen his hand. In an interview with Russian television, he not only demanded the U.S. drop the threat of military action — he also said the Obama administration must stop arming the opposition.

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