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Putin defends arms for Syria

June 1, 2012 at 12:53 PM

BERLIN, June 1 (UPI) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday called for a political settlement in Syria as he denied providing arms that could be used against dissidents.

Putin spoke at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, RIA Novosti reported.

"As for arms supplies, Russia is not supplying arms that could be used in civil conflicts," Putin said.

Russia has a naval base in Tartus, a Syrian port on the Mediterranean. Human Rights First, a U.S.-based organization, said a Russian ship arrived there last weekend with a cargo of arms.

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Russia is not violating an arms embargo. Russia and China have used their Security Council vetoes to block any U.N. sanctions against the regime of President Bashar Assad.

"But it's reprehensible that arms would continue to flow to a regime that is using such horrific and disproportionate force against its own people," Rice added.

Putin said Friday negotiating a political settlement in Syria would require "professionalism and patience."

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