Russia sends warships to Mediterranean
Moscow, August 29, 2013
Russia is sending two warships to the eastern Mediterranean, Interfax news agency said on Thursday, as Western powers prepare for military action over last week's alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria.
Interfax news agency quoted a source in the armed forces' general staff as saying a missile cruiser and an anti-submarine ship would arrive in the coming days because of the "well-known situation" - a clear reference to the conflict in Syria.
The navy later denied the deployment was linked to events in Syria and said it was part of a long-planned rotation of its ships in the Mediterranean. It did not say what kind of vessels, or how many, were on their way to the region.
The initial Interfax report had made clear that the aim was to beef up the navy's presence and not to replace the ships in the Mediterranean. The reason for the discrepancy in the two reports was not immediately clear.
The United States accuses Syrian government forces of carrying out last week's chemical weapons attack and has said it is repositioning its naval forces in the Mediterranean.
Russia, President Bashar al-Assad's main international ally, says it opposes any military intervention in Syria and that it has no plans to be drawn into any conflict. It says there is no proof that Assad's forces carried out the attack.
Meanwhile, UN inspectors, in Syria to determine whether forces have used chemical weapons in the civil war, will continue their investigations until Friday and plan to leave by Saturday morning, the UN chief said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking in Vienna, said he had spoken to US President Barack Obama on Wednesday about the situation in Syria, discussing how "we can expedite the process of investigation."
"I have also expressed (my) sincere wish that this investigation team should be allowed to continue their work as mandated by the member states," Ban told reporters on Thursday.
"I told him that we will ... share information and our analysis of samples and evidence with members of the Security Council and United Nations members in general," he said.
UN chemical weapons experts began a third day of investigations into an apparent poison gas attack last week which killed hundreds of civilians, visiting rebel-held territory outside Damascus.
"They (the inspection team) will continue investigation activities until tomorrow, Friday, and will come out of Syria by Saturday morning and will report to me," Ban said. - Reuters