Russia slams U.S. for accusing Syria of terror ties
Russia criticized the United States on Friday for accusing Syria of having ties to terrorism, saying such an approach would harm security 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," Yakovenko said ahead of a visit to Moscow by Syrian President Bashar Assad next week.
U.S. Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice has warned Syria it faces new sanctions because of its suspected interference in Iraq and ties to terrorism.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday that Israel is opposed to having Moscow supply advanced SA-18 shoulder missiles to Syria.
In the first conversation between the leaders in months, Sharon said the missile deal endangered Israel's security and the leadership of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel is concerned that the missiles will find their way from Syria to Hezbollah, putting Israel Air Force planes and even civilian aircraft at risk.
Sharon told Putin that Syria and Hezbollah were encouraging terror against Israeli targets, both in Lebanon and by means of Palestinian terror organizations. He said Syria and Hezbollah are the main challenges facing the new Palestinian government.
Putin did not respond to Sharon's plea, sources said, though Moscow has previously denied plans to sell anti-aircraft missiles to Damascus.
Russia and the United States are already at odds over Moscow's nuclear cooperation with Iran, accused by Washington of seeking to acquire illegal atomic arms.
Washington sees Syria as a sponsor of terrorism and has demanded that Damascus stop insurgents and money from entering Iraq ahead of this month's elections. Syria denies this.