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Friday, May 10, 2013

Russia: Uh, no, we won't be selling Assad S-300 air defense systems

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is denying a report in the Wall Street Journal that his government is planning to sell its advanced S-300 anti-missile system to Syria.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that Israel had informed the United States a Russian deal is imminent to sell advanced ground-to-air missiles that would significantly boost Syria's ability to stave off intervention in the conflict.
The newspaper quoted US officials as saying they were analyzing the information, but would not comment on whether they believed the sale of S-300 missile batteries was near.
Itar-Tass news agency quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying Russia would be fulfilling contracts it has already concluded with Damascus but that this did not include sales of the S-300 system.
On Thursday, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States does not want Russia to sell weapons to Syria and has opposed transfers of missile systems to the country in the past because of the threat to Israel.
"I think we have made it crystal clear we would prefer that Russia was not supplying assistance," Kerry said at a news conference after meeting Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino.
Pressed about the report, Kerry suggested he may have raised the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, whom he met in Moscow on Tuesday.
After those meetings, the two countries agreed to seek new peace talks to end the conflict.
"I had my say with President Putin and I had my say with Sergey Lavrov and we made an agreement to go to a negotiation in the next days and I am not going to get into here, now, at this moment, as I said, distinguishing features between one country's aid and another country's aid and who's doing what," he said.
"That would be counterproductive to what we are trying to accomplish," he added.
The White House also sidestepped the issue.
 For now, at least. If it looks like Assad is going to fall, I would  bet on the issue being re-raised.

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