Russia defends Syria from US accusation
* Sharon urges Putin not to sell missiles
MOSCOW: Russia said on Friday assertions by Washington that Syria had ties to terrorism could destabilise the Middle East.
Moscow also again denied reports that it plans to sell missiles to Syria, whose President Bashar al-Assad is due to visit Russia next week. The reports have sparked concern in Israel, which says they could be launched against it.
US Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice warned Syria earlier this week that it faced new sanctions because of its suspected interference in Iraq and ties to terrorisM Russia’s Foreign Ministry sprang to Syria’s defence, calling the Arab state one of its “most important partners” in the Middle East.
“It’s well known that slapping labels on countries and unilaterally describing certain states as part of the ‘axis of evil’ has not improved anyone’s security,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko told Interfax news agency. “Syria is one of the key players in the region and resumption of talks with Israel on the Syrian question is important in the context of the Middle East peace process,” he said.
Israeli and Russian media last week reported that Moscow wants to sell SA-18 shoulder-fired missiles and Iskander-E ground-to-ground missiles, which would bring most of Israel into Syria’s range. Yakovenko denied that but told Interfax that Russia’s “wide-ranging” ties with Syria did include military cooperation.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov denied already last week that Moscow was in talks with Syria over arms sales. On Thursday, political sources in Israel said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon urged Russian President Vladimir Putin in a telephone call not to sell arms to Syria because that would strengthen Hizbollah and Palestinian militants.
But the Russian leader did not respond to Sharon’s plea, the sources said. reuters