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US calls on Russia to stop arms support to Syria

White House press secretary Jay Carney reiterated calls for Russia to stop arming the Assad regime after reports that Russia might be planning to sell missile defense systems to Syria. "We have consistently called on Russia to cut off the Assad regime's supply of Russian weapons including air defense systems that are destabilizing the region," he told reporters aboard Air Force One on Thursday. Reminding that Russia could play a more constructive role in the Syria issue, Carney said, "one thing for sure is providing extra arms wouldn't accelerate a political solution in Syria."    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also said on Thursday the United States has opposed arms deals in the past. "I think we have made it crystal clear we would prefer that Russia was not supplying assistance," Kerry said at a news conference after meeting Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino.
 
The Wall Street Journal earlier this week reported that Israel had informed the United States a Russian deal is imminent to sell advanced ground-to-air missiles that would significantly boost Syria's ability to stave off intervention in the conflict.
 
The newspaper quoted U.S. officials as saying they were analysing the information, but would not comment on whether they believed the sale of S-300 missile batteries was near.
 
Pressed about the report, Kerry suggested he may have raised the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, whom he met in Moscow on Tuesday.
 
After those meetings, the two countries agreed to seek new peace talks to end the conflict.
 
"I had my say with President Putin and I had my say with Sergey Lavrov and we made an agreement to go to a negotiation in the next days and I am not going to get into here, now, at this moment, as I said, distinguishing features between one country's aid and another country's aid and who's doing what," he said.
 
"That would be counterproductive to what we are trying to accomplish," he added.
 
The White House also sidestepped the issue.
 
"We are aware of the reports. But I have no further information for you on it. We have consistently called on Russia to cut off the Assad regime's supply of Russian weapons, including air defence systems that are destabilising to the region," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One as U.S. President Barack Obama headed to Texas.
 
On Thursday, Kerry said the United States was grateful to Russia for its willingness to work with the United States to try to bring the Syrian government and rebels seeking to topple it to an international conference to negotiate an end to the war.
 
He suggested the meeting could take place in Geneva, where Moscow and Washington last year agreed on a framework to try to end the war by creating a transitional government in Syria, but diplomacy has foundered since.

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