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US says Russian arms kill Syrians 'hourly' as West turns up pressure

US ratchets up its charges even as Russia says it's supplying only defensive weapons. Britain and France join a chorus that appears to be pressing Moscow to give up on Syria's Assad.

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The message for Russia, Mr. Hague said, is that Assad “is not going to get back on top of the situation” no matter how terrible the Syrian conflict becomes.

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With its Western allies implementing a full-court press on Russia, Washington was hardly in a mood to back off its charges.

At the State Department, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland laid the spilling of Syrian blood at Moscow’s feet. “On a daily basis, on an hourly basis, we are seeing Russian- and Soviet-made weaponry used against civilians in towns all across Syria,” she said.

And Clinton said Thursday that US demands on Russia to stop arming Assad are not new. “We have repeatedly urged the Russian government to cut these military ties completely and to suspend all further support and deliveries,” she said.

As for Lavrov’s assertions that Russia is only fulfilling contracts signed well in the past and which are “solely for air defense,” Ms. Nuland suggested the Russian foreign minister might not have correct information on the issue.

“I would encourage him to check with his own authorities,” she said.

For his part, Lavrov tried to deflect the accusations of arming ruthless authorities by turning it back on the US. “We don’t supply Syria or anyone else with things that are used to fight against peaceful demonstrators, unlike the United States, which regularly supplies that region with such special equipment,” he said. The US, he continued, is providing arms to the Syrian opposition “that can be used against the Damascus government.”

The US has only authorized providing the Syrian opposition with non-lethal supplies such as communications equipment, but it is also true that countries in the region, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, are providing weapons to the Syrian Free Army – and with tacit US approval.

Lavrov’s accusation that the US “regularly supplies that region with such special equipment” is in line with criticism over the past year from a number of human rights organizations that the monarchy in Bahrain, which purchases arms from the US, repressed demonstrations – resulting in scores of deaths – with the assistance of the US-supplied Saudi military.

But at the State Department, Nuland rejected the comparison. She said the US maintains “oversight” to ensure that US-supplied weapons are not used against civilians. And if Russia has such a system, she added, “it doesn’t seem to be applied in this case.”

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