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Lavrov Denies Moscow Has Backed Syrian Transition Plan

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has denied reports that Moscow endorsed a Syrian transition plan that includes a call for President Bashar al-Assad to give up power in favor of a national unity government.

The clarification comes with tensions high over continued fighting between government and rebel forces in Syria and growing fears of a conflict between Syria and neighbor Turkey.

An unnamed U.S. official reportedly suggested on June 27 that international envoy Kofi Annan had assured Washington that Russia backed the plan, and that world powers gathering in Geneva on June 30 for talks on Syria also had endorsed it.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed hope in Helsinki that a new plan by Annan would increase pressure on Assad.

But at a televised press conference on June 28, Lavrov said that Moscow is "not supporting and will not support any external meddling" in Syria.

Russia has previously warned it would oppose foreign moves to pressure its ally Assad to step down.

Syrian opposition groups say they will reject any political transition plan unless it explicitly requires Assad to quit as president.

Iran's ambassador to the UN has blamed foreigners for the bloodshed in Syria and denied any Iranian role.

Turkey Tensions

Meanwhile, Turkey's military has deployed a convoy of about 30 military vehicles -- including antiaircraft guns and rockets -- along that country's border with Syria.

Turkish officials called the deployment "a precaution" after a Turkish military jet was shot down by Syria on June 22.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that any Syrian military units moving toward the border and deemed threatening would be declared a military target.

Erdogan on June 26 said Ankara will not tolerate any more violations of the border by Syrian forces. He said Syrian helicopters had recently crossed into Turkish airspace at least five times. Syrian artillery also reportedly has fired across the border to target refugees who have fled into Turkey to escape the Syrian regime's crackdown on dissent.

Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, and BBC

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