May 30, 2013 1:13 PM
BEIRUT (AP) - International efforts to end Syria's civil war have received a double blow today.
The exile-based opposition coalition is refusing to participate in peace talks. A spokesman for the Syrian National Coalition says an "international conference on a political solution to the situation in Syria has no meaning in light of the massacres that are taking place." He also blasted Iran for its support of President Bashar Assad's forces and what he called the "invasion" of Syria by the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah (hez-BUH'-lah).
Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar Assad says government forces have received the first shipment of Russian anti-aircraft missiles. Assad made the comment in an interview with Lebanon's Hezbollah-owned TV station.
Earlier this week, Israel's defense chief said his country was prepared to use force to stop the delivery of the long-range S-300 air defense missiles to Syria. Israel has carried out several airstrikes in Syria in recent months that are believed to have destroyed weapons shipments bound for Hezbollah.
American officials say they have no evidence that the Assad regime has received a shipment of S-300s. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
According to UN estimates, more than 70,000 Syrians have been killed since the revolution began in March 2011, resulting in 1.5 million refuges who have fled the country to escape the conflict.
Russia's Foreign Ministry says that Washington's openness to a no-fly zone over Syria has raised doubts about the sincerity of U.S. support for a peace conference on Syria.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that every option, including the possibility of a no-fly zone, remains on the table.
The Russian Foreign Ministry responded Thursday by urging Washington to stick to its pledge to help broker a Syria peace conference together with Moscow. It cautioned the U.S. against a "bellicose agenda on Syria."
The ministry added that the talk about the no-fly zone along with the EU's decision to lift arms embargo for Syrian rebels "raised doubts about the sincerity of some of our international and regional partners regarding international efforts to achieve a political settlement."
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