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UN Syria envoy hails small gains in latest peace talks

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UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria Staffan de Mistura, speaks to the media after a round of negotiations with Syrian government delegation, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

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16th-Jul-2017       
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AP, Washington :
A prominent Russian-American lobbyist and former Soviet military officer said he was at a meeting between a Russian lawyer and President Donald Trump's son, son-in-law and campaign chairman last year, adding a new wrinkle to the Trump team's evolving explanations about the June 2016 session.
Rinat Akhmetshin confirmed his involvement to The Associated Press in a Friday interview. He had not been previously identified as a participant in the meeting at Trump Tower in New York, which was billed as part of a Russian government effort to help the Republican's White House campaign.
The meeting has heightened questions about whether Trump's associates coordinated with Russia to meddle in the presidential election - to help him and thwart Hillary Clinton - and whether they've been forthcoming about their foreign contacts. Federal and congressional investigators are probing possible connections between the campaign and Moscow.
While Trump Jr. has confirmed that Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya was in the meeting, he has not disclosed Akhmetshin's presence.
Akhmetshin has been reported to have ties to Russian intelligence, a characterization he dismisses as a "smear campaign." He's a well-known Washington presence, lobbying for Russian interests trying to undermine the allegations of a lawyer who died in a Russian prison and is the namesake of a U.S. sanctions law.
Akhmetshin told the AP he served in the Soviet military in a unit that was part of counterintelligence but he was never formally trained as a spy.
In emails posted by Donald Trump Jr. earlier this week, a music publicist said he arranged the meeting because a Russian lawyer wanted to pass on negative information about Democrat Clinton. The go-between stated that the discussion was part of a Russian government effort to help the GOP candidate.
The president's son has publicly discounted the meeting, saying he did not receive the information he was promised.
In a statement Sunday, Trump Jr. said the attorney had said she had information that people tied to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Clinton, a description that Akhmetshin backed up in his interview with the AP.
In his first public interview about the meeting, Akhmetshin said he accompanied Veselnitskaya to Trump Tower where they met an interpreter. He said he had learned about the meeting only that day when Veselnitskaya asked him to attend. He said he showed up in jeans and a T-shirt.

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