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Lavrov Denies Russian Warships Off Syria

A Syrian Defense Ministry official denied media reports on Tuesday that Russian warships had arrived off the Syrian coast

By RiaNovosti | Cairo | 20 Mar 2012

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denied reports on Tuesday that Russian warships had arrived off the Syrian coast to deploy soldiers.

"Reports that Russian warships are in Tartus are complete fairy tales," Lavrov said.

A Syrian Defense Ministry official also denied the same reports, the SANA news agency said.

Some Russian and other media reported earlier that the Russian Black Sea tanker Iman with a group of marines onboard was operating close to the Syrian coast.

“This information is false and is part of the anti-Syria campaign waged by some countries…. seeking military interference into Syria’s domestic affairs,” the official said.

A senior member of the European parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, has called for an immediate UN inquiry into allegations by the Syrian opposition that a Russian warship was delivering weapons to Syria.

If the reports about weapons supplies were proven, it would make Russia an accomplice in President Bashar al-Assad’s alleged crimes against humanity, said Verhofstadt, leader of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the European parliament.

Russia has previously stated that it is carrying out arms deliveries to Syria in accordance with existing contracts, the weapons are not beind used against civilians, and these deliveries are not in contravention of any international agreements. Russia supplies Syria with a variety of weapons including anti-ship and air-defense missiles, armored vehicles and aircraft.

Western nations and Israel have accused the Syrian authorities of violently suppressing the year-long protests taking place in the country against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. He in turn has accused the West of supporting the protesters, who he says are al-Qaeda linked militants and deserters.

The Syrian statement echoed a Russian Defense Ministry denial on Monday night that its warships were in the area.

The Defense Ministry confirmed the tanker Iman’s arrival off the Syrian coast, but said it was for technical reasons and its crew was all civilians accompanied by security guards.

The ministry said the tanker was carrying fuel and food supplies for the Russian Black Sea and Northern fleets, which are engaged in anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden.



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