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U.S., British, French Defense Ministers Criticize Russian Role In Syria

The U.S., British, and French defense ministers have criticized Russia's role in the Syria conflict and called on Moscow to stop targeting the opposition forces who are fighting the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on January 20 that the Russians "are on the wrong track strategically and also in some cases tactically."

He spoke after a meeting in Paris of the seven defense ministers who are part of a coalition fighting against IS in Syria and Iraq.

"We don't have a basis for broader cooperation [with Russia]," Carter added.

His British counterpart, Michael Fallon, said that he was "very concerned" by Russia's use of unguided weapons that have caused "several hundred [civilian] casualties."

"We've seen Russian strikes on [moderate] opposition forces, on towns and villages, particularly in the south of Syria, which simply prolonging the Syrian war...[and] propping up [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad," said Fallon.

Russia's Defense Ministry spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov, rejected Fallon's claims as "slanderous lies."

Russia insists it is bombing "terrorists" in Syria and has not caused any civilian casualties.

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Paris hopes that "Russia will concentrate its efforts against [IS] and stop bombing the groups of the uprising [against Assad] who themselves are fighting [IS]."

Based on reporting by AFP and AP

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