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Russia Unconvinced by U.S. Claims of Syrian Chemical-Weapons Use

Russia doesn’t believe U.S. claims that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces have used chemical weapons in his country’s two-year-old civil war, President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy aide said.

The information provided to Russia by the U.S. to back up its assertion is “unconvincing,” Yuri Ushakov told reporters in Moscow today.

The U.S. will supply small arms and ammunition to the Syrian opposition amid recent battlefield setbacks by rebels and after saying it confirmed that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons, according to a U.S. official familiar with the decision.

Syria has been embroiled in a conflict since March 2011 that’s evolved into civil war and spilled over Syria’s borders in recent months. The United Nations said yesterday that at least 93,000 people have been killed and that the real number is “potentially much higher.”

Russia and the U.S. have proposed holding an international peace conference on Syria next month in Geneva. The initiative will be in doubt if the Obama administration “hardens” its stance on the conflict and arms the rebels, Ushakov said.

Russia won’t respond to the U.S. move by lifting a freeze on the supply of S-300 anti-aircraft missiles to Syria, the presidential foreign-policy adviser said. “We’re not in competition over Syria,” he said.

Putin said June 4 that his country hadn’t delivered the missiles to Syria to avoid upsetting the regional balance of power.

Israel asked Russia to at least suspend the sale “until the situation in Syria clears up,” Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Zeev Elkin said yesterday. The weapons are capable of shooting down any civilian or military aircraft in Israel, according to Elkin.

Israeli National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror told European Union ambassadors his country would prevent the missiles from becoming operational on Syrian soil if delivered, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported last month.

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