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Russia Reaffirms Belief Syria Will Avoid Use of Chemical Arms

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday said he was confident Syria would abide by its promises not to mount chemical weapons attacks on opposition fighters, RIA Novosti reported.

"I rule out the use by [Syrian President Bashar Assad's] regime of chemical weapons," Lavrov said to reporters. "We have received appropriate assurances."

Earlier this summer, Damascus said it would only use biological or chemical arms to fend off a foreign military intervention. Some Syrian rebels, however, are skeptical of this promise. A Syrian army defector in September claimed that before fleeing the country he took part in high-level regime discussions on the possibility of mounting chemical attacks.

Syria's neighbors, the United States, and European governments are concerned about the possibility of a chemical weapons strike or of the Syrian military losing control over a portion of its substantial arsenal of chemical warfare agents.

Russia is one of Damascus' last remaining allies. Under considerable international criticism, Moscow has continued to deliver weapon-related shipments to Syria. Lavrov defended those exports as being covered by previous agreements.

"We will conclude the deliveries of weapons under old contracts," the Russian foreign policy chief stated.

He also criticized Western news organizations for their reporting on the matter, ITAR-Tass reported. "Russia is surprised that the Western media mislead the international community, saying that we deliver WMD to Syria," Lavrov said, insisting that recent arms shipments to Damascus have been related to air defenses.

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