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US hopes Russia will press Syria on crisis

The United States said Monday it hopes Moscow will turn its attention to Syria and push for humanitarian relief there now that Russia’s presidential elections are over.

“We’re hoping for some fresh attention to the tragedy in Syria now that the elections are passed,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.

“And our hope is that now that these elections are behind them that they will join all of us in doing more to push for humanitarian relief for the people of Homs and the people throughout Syria.”

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed frustration last week with Russia’s “troubling” failure to produce an aid plan for Syria, despite its influence with President Bashar al-Assad.

Clinton previously blasted Russia as well as China after they vetoed a UN Security Council resolution earlier this month that condemned Syria for its crackdown on dissent and outlined a post-Assad transition.

It was their second veto of a UN Security Council resolution on Syria.

“There was some sense that they (the Russians) weren’t going to be making changes in their foreign policy position in the last week before an election. So the election is now finished. This is not surprising,” Nuland said.

“Sometimes it’s difficult for governments to focus at home and abroad at the same time.”

According to official results, Putin won around 64 percent of Sunday’s ballot in easing his way back to the seat he held for the maximum two terms from 2000-2008 before his four-year stint as prime minister.

His Communist Party challenger Gennady Zyuganov refused to recognize the results after winning just 17 percent, while billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov scored a surprise third place finish despite building his base from scratch.

Election-rigging claims have shadowed these polls just as they had done at parliamentary elections in December that were followed by three months of the biggest anti-Kremlin demonstrations since Soviet times.

As the Syrian crisis deepens, Russia and China are stepping up efforts to find a peaceful solution.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he was preparing for a meeting on Saturday in Cairo with his Arab counterparts to discuss Syria due to the “urgency” of the crisis.

And China said it was sending a new envoy to Damascus and is ready to support international aid under the auspices of the United Nations or another “impartial” organization.

The diplomatic moves came as the International Committee of the Red Cross said it had still not been granted permission to enter Baba Amr, the rebellious district of Homs overrun four days ago by regime forces.