Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Russia Warns against No-Fly Zone in Syria; Foreign Minister Contends Talks Are Endangered by U.S. Positions

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Russia Warns against No-Fly Zone in Syria; Foreign Minister Contends Talks Are Endangered by U.S. Positions

Article excerpt

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia * Russia's foreign minister said Friday that Washington is sending contradictory signals on Syria that could derail an international conference intended to end that country's civil war, warning that U.S. talk about a possible no-fly zone would only encourage the rebels to keep fighting.

Sergey Lavrov also criticized demands that Syrian President Bashar Assad step down.

"Not because we like the regime, not because we want the regime to stay, but because it's for the Syrians to decide," Lavrov said in an interview. "And to say you must capitulate and deliver the power to us is just not realistic."

In addition, he dismissed allegations by the United States, Britain and France that Assad's regime has used chemical weapons.

Russia has been the key ally of Assad's regime throughout the Syrian conflict, shielding it from U.N. Security Council sanctions and continuing to provide it with weapons.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has confirmed that his country signed a contract for the delivery of S-300 state-of-the art air defense missile systems to Syria, but said it hasn't been fulfilled yet.

Lavrov defended the S-300 deal, pointing to the deployment of U.S. Patriot air defense missiles and fighter jets to neighboring Jordan.

"The contract on S-300s is absolutely legal, it's transparent and it's fully in line with the international norms and with the Russian export control legislation," he told The Associated Press and the Bloomberg news agency.

"Second, the contract hasn't been yet finalized. Third, the Americans are leaving Patriots after this exercise in Jordan, together with F-16 planes, and no one is asking them not to do this. The region is really full of weapons, including offensive weapons which have been supplied in the past to the countries of the region, and some of these weapons are infiltrating into Syria. …

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