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WASHINGTON (AFP) – John Boehner, the top Republican in the House of Representatives, has rejected a request to meet a Russian delegation to discuss Syria, his spokesman said Wednesday.

Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly endorsed plans to send a parliamentary delegation to the United States for talks with Congress.

The initiative appears aimed at persuading lawmakers to vote down President Barack Obama’s call to support limited military strikes in Syria in the wake of an alleged deadly sarin gas attack in a Damascus suburb on August 21.

“The Speaker has declined the Russian embassy’s request that he meet with a delegation,” Michael Steel, Boehner’s spokesman, told AFP.

CNN quoted a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Washington as saying the visit was still being planned and that it would be “next week.”

The spokesman also told CNN the delegation would include members of the upper and lower chambers of Russia’s parliament and that they intended to speak with Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate.

Valentina Matviyenko, speaker of Russia’s upper house of parliament, said Monday the delegation would try to travel to the United States before September 9.

Russia has supported the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad throughout the two and a half year conflict and has repeatedly blocked any attempts to punish his regime at the UN Security Council.

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