Russia, U.S. deny latest statements on arms to Syria

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says Russia will put its vital Mideast interests at risk if it does not move forward more “constructively” on Syria. (Reuters)

Russia and the United States denied latest statements over arming the rival sides in the Syrian conflict on Wednesday.

The United States on Wednesday denied Russia’s claim that it is arming Syria’s opposition and expressed new concern over what it says is Moscow’s supply of attack helicopters to Damascus.

“We do not and have not supplied weapons to the Syrian opposition. You know our position on that and we have made it very clear,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

Meanwhile, Russia on Wednesday also denied that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had accused Washington of arming Syrian rebels, saying his comments during a visit to Iran had been misquoted.

“It was a translation error in Farsi,” a foreign ministry official said, handing out a Russian version of the comments which had Lavrov saying that the United States was delivering arms “in the region.”

Lavrov earlier accused the United States of supplying weapons to Syria’s rebels, a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made the accusation on the helicopters.

Lavrov was reported saying in Iran that Russia was supplying “anti-air defense systems” to Damascus in a deal that “in no way violates international laws.”

“That contrasts with what the United States is doing with the opposition, which is providing arms to the Syrian opposition which are being used against the Syrian government,” he said, in remarks translated from Russian into Farsi by an official interpreter.

Other media, including Iran’s official IRNA news agency, published the same accusation, in what appeared to be the first time Moscow had directly pointed the finger at Washington.

But in Moscow, the Russian foreign ministry later said Lavrov’s statement was mistranslated and that the minister had only said Washington was supplying arms “in the region.”

“We do not supply to Syria or anywhere else things that are used to fight peaceful civilians,” he said.

The White House has said it has provided equipment such as radios and medical supplies to Syria’s rebels, but says it opposes further “militarizing” the conflict in the country.

Clinton warns Russia

Clinton said on Wednesday that Russia will put at risk what it sees as its vital interests in the Middle East if it does not move forward more constructively on Syria.

“Russia says it wants peace and stability restored. It says it has no particular love lost for (Syrian President Bashar al-) Assad and it also claims to have vital interests in the region and relationships that it wants to continue to keep. They put all of that at risk if they do not move more constructively right now,” Clinton told reporters at a news conference.

Clinton renewed her call on Russia to end arms deliveries to Syria, saying that the violence-torn nation was “spiraling toward civil war.”

Syria’s opposition on Wednesday like Assad’s regime denied prospects of a civil war in the country.

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