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Russia to stay out of Syrian port

July 26, 2012 at 10:57 AM
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MOSCOW, July 26 (UPI) -- While Russia has no intention to abandon its naval base in Syria, it also has no plans to dock there during drills in the Mediterranean, a commander said.

Russian Vice Adm. Viktor Chirkov said military drills are under way in the Mediterranean Sea featuring a flotilla of 10 warships and escort vessels.

Chirkov said Thursday there were no plans from Moscow to abandon its naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus, Russia's only naval base outside the former Soviet Union.

"The joint fleet flotilla will not enter the port of Tartus," he was quoted by Russia's state-run news service RIA Novosti as saying. "It is carrying out military drills in the Mediterranean."

In June, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Moscow of arming Syrian forces, who are suspected of committing war crimes against its people during the civil war. Russia counts Syria as one of its largest arms customers.

A veto-wielding member of the U.N. Security Council, Moscow has shot down resolutions aimed at censuring Damascus for the ongoing bloodshed.

The Kremlin, however, warned Damascus this week against using its stockpile of chemical weapons should foreign forces decide to use military action in Syria.

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