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Russia, United States Spar Over Syria

Demonstrators protest against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad at Kfr Suseh in Damascus on June 12.
Russia and the United States have sparred over the violence in Syria.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton again blamed Russia for making the situation in Syria worse by sending military helicopters to the regime of Bashir Assad.

Clinton also expressed disappointment that Russia had ignored repeated requests to suspend its military ties with Syria.

"We have repeatedly urged the Russian government to cut these military ties completely and to suspend all further support and deliveries," Clinton said. "Obviously we know because they confirmed that they continue to deliver and we believe that the situation is spiraling toward civil war and it's now time for everyone in the international community including Russia and all Security Council members to speak to Assad with a unified voice and insist that the violence stop and come together with Kofi Annan to plan a political transition going forward."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov rejected the helicopter charge, explaining any Russian arms shipments to Syria were connected to earlier weapons contracts and that such weapons were solely for air defense systems.

Many media reports quoted Lavrov as accusing Washington of arming Syrian rebels. However, he only said the United States was supplying "special means" to the region.

Nevertheless, Clinton denied Washington was arming rebels in Syria.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has accused Syrian forces of terrorizing the residents of towns believed to shelter rebels.

In a fresh report, Amnesty said government troops and militia had dragged men from their homes, executing them and burning their bodies as their families watched.

In Paris, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said France will propose giving the United Nations the power to enforce Kofi Annan's Syrian peace plan.

Fabius said one of the options under consideration at the Security Council was a no-fly zone. That amid reports Syrian forces are using helicopter gunships to fire on rebel strongholds.

On the ground in Syria, state media said government forces had regained control over Haffeh after a weeklong offensive on the region.

Free Syrian Army rebels said they had withdrawn from Haffeh at night on June 12.

UN observers had tried to visit Haffeh on June 12, but they turned back after being greeted by an angry mob and being shot at as they tried to get out.

Based on AP and Reuters reporting

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