Russia Foreign Minister Lavrov says Syria arms sales are for "external threats"


Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speaks at his press conference in Moscow , on January 18, 2012. Lavrov accused today Western powers of trying to 'suffocate' the Iranian economy and incite popular discontent with new sanctions such as a proposed oil embargo. AFP PHOTO / YURI KADOBNOV


Yuri Kadobnov

Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday that Russian arms sales to Syria are for "external threats," the Associated Press reported.

In a speech to the lower house of Russia's parliament, the Duma, Lavrov said the Kremlin's stance is based in respect for international law and that the weapons provided are not ones that could be used against protesters.

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The Kremlin backs Assad's claim that the uprisings are a foreign conspiracy, the AP wrote. 

Russia has vetoed and blocked several United Nations Security Council resolutions condemning Syria's violence, but Lavrov indicated growing annoyance with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. “Regrettably, he hasn’t always followed our advice in his activities,” Lavrov told the Duma.

Today, Syrian troops reportedly entered the southern city of Dera'a, where the uprising against the Syrian government began one year ago. Young schoolchildren were arrested and tortured for writing anti-regime graffiti on a wall in the city, sparking more protests against the Assad regime.

The New York Times reported that 150 tanks and "busloads" of troops combed the city on Wednesday.

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SANA, the Syrian state news agency, wrote that Lavrov said "Moscow aims at achieving peace in Syria and maintaining its citizens' lives, preventing conflict and violence in the region and preserving stability and security in the area near Russia's southern borders." ""Our goal is the achievement of peace in Syria, the preservation of human lives, not allowing an inter-religious explosion in the Middle East," according to the Moscow Times.