David Cameron has claimed Britain " invented most of the things worth inventing" as he issued an impassioned rebuttal of Russia's reported dismissal of Britain as a "small island" whose views can be ignored.
Downing Street demanded "clarification" from the Kremlin yesterday of reported remarks by a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, who was said to have told reporters that the UK was "just a small island: no one pays any attention to them".
Putin's chief spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that he was responsible for the comment, insisting it did not reflect the reality of Russia's views on its "positive" relations with the UK.
But the Prime Minister told reporters: "I've been told that the Russians absolutely deny making the remark, and certainly no one's made it to me.
"But let me be clear - Britain may be a small island, but I would challenge anyone to find a country with a prouder history, a bigger heart or greater resilience.
"Britain is an island that has helped to clear the European continent of fascism and was resolute in doing that throughout the Second World War.
"Britain is an island that helped to abolish slavery, that has invented most of the things worth inventing, including every sport currently played around the world, that still today is responsible for art, literature and music that delights the entire world.
"We are very proud of everything we do as a small island - a small island that has the sixth-largest economy, the fourth best-funded military, some of the most effective diplomats, the proudest history, one of the best records for art and literature and contribution to philosophy and world civilisation."
He added: "For the people who live in Northern Ireland, I should say we are not just an island we are a collection of islands. I don't want anyone in Shetland or Orkney to feel left out by this."
Cameron today ruled out any prospect of agreement over Syria at the G20 summit in St Petersburg, saying that Putin remains "miles away" from the truth of Bashar Assad's use of chemical weapons on his own people.
Summit host Putin has rallied opposition from a number of countries at the summit to Barack Obama's proposals for punitive action against Assad, with only France suggesting it will join in any military strikes.
Cameron confirmed that deep divisions over Syria were voiced at last night's four-hour official dinner and said that - despite evidence of nerve gas sarin found by US and UK scientists - Putin is still far from accepting the regime's responsibility for the August 21 attack which killed hundreds of civilians in a Damascus suburb.
"This G20 was never going to reach conclusions on Syria," said the Prime Minister. "The divisions are too great.
"The Russian position that, as Putin has said, if it is proved it is Assad he will take a different view but he is fairly clear that it is the opposition, is miles away from what I think the truth is and miles away from what lots of us believe."
Following a 35-minute face-to-face meeting with Putin in the early hours of today, Mr Cameron said: "He says to me that he would like to see further evidence of regime culpability and we will go on providing evidence of regime culpability, as will the Americans and others, but I think it will take a lot to change his mind."
The premiers of Turkey, Canada, Germany and Italy all joined Mr Obama and Mr Cameron in making the case at last night's dinner for a robust international response to Assad's alleged breach of treaties banning the use of chemical weapons.
But it is understood that Putin's argument that any action must be approved by the UN Security Council was backed by several countries, including China.
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