Zee Media Bureau
Washington: US officials on Friday claimed that Russia has sent Syria advanced anti-ship missiles, in a bid to bolster Assad regime`s defence power.
The development came even as much of the international community pleaded Moscow not to stop supply weapons to President Bashar al-Assad`s forces.
One of the US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told a news agency that the latest Yakhont surface-to-air missiles were delivered recently. The transfer of the missiles was first reported by the New York Times.
There was no immediate comment from the Russian government.
The Russian arms transfer could intensify a push by some lawmakers in the Congress for the United States to deepen its role in Syria, particularly after President Barack Obama`s government acknowledged preliminary intelligence that Assad`s forces likely used chemical weapons.
"We can watch from the sidelines as the scales are tipped in Assad`s favour, or protect US national interests by supporting the armed opposition striving to build a new Syrian future," said Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez.
Menendez is the author of legislation that sanctions arms and oil sales to Assad, while providing lethal arms and training to the Syrian opposition.
But many US officials fear weapons could fall into the wrong hands. The news agency on Friday reported that al Qaeda`s Iraq-based wing is eclipsing the Islamist Nusra Front. Al Qaeda in Iraq includes thousands of foreign fighters whose ultimate goal is not toppling Assad but anti-Western jihad.
Obama said on Thursday he would consider both diplomatic and military options to pressure Assad, but insisted that US action alone would not be enough to resolve the Syrian crisis.
The two-year-old civil war in Syria between Assad`s forces and rebel fighters has killed an estimated 80,000 people and forced more than 1.5 million to flee the fighting.
The United States and Russia have agreed to convene a conference to try to stop the war, but no date has been set.
(With Agency inputs)