Saturday, June 16, 2012

Syria: US arming Syrian rebels, says Russia

Syria: US arming Syrian rebels, says Russia
Russia's foreign minister on Wednesday accused the United States of supplying Syrian rebels with weapons to fight against the government.

It is the latest tit-for-tat between Moscow and Washington over the Syrian crisis, coming a day after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Russia of sending attack helicopters to Syria.

"We are not violating any international law in performing these contracts," said Sergei Lavrov, in response to a question about Clinton's comments at a news conference during a visit to Iran.

Lavrov described as "patently untrue" US accusations it was aiding the Syrian government in its crackdown, maintaining Moscow's argument that its arms transfers to Syria are unrelated to the conflict there.

"They (the United States) are providing arms and weapons to the Syrian opposition that can be used in fighting against the Damascus government," he said on Iranian state television, speaking through an interpreter.

Russia has been a fierce critic of Western attempts to exploit the Syrian crisis for their own interests and, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has stymied efforts by Western powers to pressure President Bashar Assad into stepping down.

Lavrov said Russia's position was based on concern for the Syrian people and the country's integrity, rather than personal preference for Assad.

"I have announced time and again that our stance is not based on support for Bashar Assad or anyone else ... We don't want to see Syria disintegrate."

Russia fears continued Western and Gulf Arab involvement in the Syrian crisis will push the country to a full-scale civil war, effectively causing the country to disintegrate on similar lines as Iraq.

Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said the Syrian crisis could not be resolved by external powers.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran has announced many times: the issue of Syria needs to be dealt with in Syria by Syrians, not through the interference of others"

Violence in Syria is only intensifying as the regime attempts to crush an armed rebellion that is being largely financed by Gulf Arab states, with suspected Turkish and Western support.

The UN says at least 10,000 people have been killed since the crisis began in March 2011.

(Al-Akhbar, Reuters

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