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Russia sees 'no reason' to halt weapon support for Syria

A Russian official said today that his country will fulfill several existing arms deals with Syria in the latest indication that Russian opposition to foreign intervention is growing. 

By Correspondent / March 13, 2012

In this August 2009 file photo, a Russian Yak-130 training jet is seen at MAKS-2009 (the International Aviation and Space Show) in Zhukovsky, Russia. Russia has no intention of curtailing military cooperation with Syria, a senior Russian government official said Tuesday. Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said that Russia will abide by existing contracts to deliver weapons to Syria despite Assad's yearlong crackdown on the opposition.

Misha Japaridze/AP/File

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Moscow

Russia has no intention of rethinking its weapons sales and military cooperation with Syria, despite the spiraling death toll in the country, a senior Russian official said Tuesday.

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"Russia enjoys good and strong military technical cooperation with Syria, and we see no reason today to reconsider it," Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov told journalists in Moscow.

Several outstanding arms deals will be fulfilled, and Russian specialists will be made available to train Syrian troops on the new weapons, he added. "It's part of our contractual obligations," said Mr. Antonov. "When we supply weapons, we have to provide training."

The United Nations estimates that more than 7,500 people have died in the nearly year-long uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. Russia, joined by China, has used its UN Security Council veto to block any concerted international action on the crisis, and lately has grown even more outspoken about what it sees as an attempt at Western-sponsored regime change against a traditional ally of Moscow.

Russia has furiously denounced alleged Western efforts to aid the beleaguered Syrian rebels, including what Russia says are secret channels used to inject arms and mercenaries from abroad to fuel the civil conflict.

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told a UN Security Council session Monday that "interference from outside, using raw military force, increases the illicit spread of arms, thus jeopardizing stability in the region."

But US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the West sees Syria's crisis as a brutal, unpopular regime cracking down on a largely helpless population. "We reject any equivalence between premeditated murders by a government's military machine, and the actions of civilians under siege driven to self-defense," she told the Security Council.

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