Lebanon turns down Russian navy request to divert flights

Russia told Lebanese authorities it wants to conduct a three-day naval exercise

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Lebanon has turned down a Russian request to divert civilian flights in some areas so that Moscow could conduct a naval exercise in the Mediterranean Sea, the Lebanese transport minister said on Friday.

"The Russians have asked the Directorate of Civil Aviation authority in Lebanon to divert the routes of planes in a specific area over the international waters where they are planning to conduct the exercise," Ghazi Zeaiter said.

"This (disruption would have been) for three days but we refused because it is against our interests," he added.

Russia has said it wants the manoeuvres to start at midnight local time and to last three days, Lebanon's National News Agency said, citing a telegram from the Russian navy.

A Russian defense ministry official in Moscow declined any immediate comment. Russia has been carrying out air strikes against rebels opposed to its ally President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, Lebanon's neighbor, for nearly two months.

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