Russia rejects US criticism over its arming of Assad

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia on Monday rejected comments by US Secretary of State John Kerry accusing Moscow of worsening the Syria conflict by supplying arms to Damascus, saying it still backed a political solution.

"The American side is voicing accusations towards Russia that are far from reality, as if Russia is exacerbating tensions in Syria with its support for Damascus," the ministry said in response to Mr Kerry's comments on Saturday at a "Friends of Syria" conference in Qatar.

Mr Kerry said that while "ostensibly looking for this political solution, (Russia) has also made it possible for (President Bashar) al-Assad to join forces with the Iranians as well as with Hezbollah and wage this higher-level, higher-intensity war against his own people."

Russia, a key ally of Mr Assad, is pressing together with the United States for a new international peace conference to be held aimed at getting the two sides around the negotiating table for the first time.

Russia on Monday also slammed the Qatar conference's support for supplying arms to what it called the "radical opposition" in Syria.

"Such statements from Doha cannot but provoke serious concerns," Moscow said.

It said that arms could end up in the hands of "terrorists" and "encourage the opposition towards a destructive military solution for Syria."