US notes differences with Russia amid Syria row

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The United States pointedly noted Tuesday that it had some differences with Russia despite its "reset" of relations with the Kremlin, after Moscow flexed its muscles on behalf of isolated Syria.

Russia had earlier called for an end to "ultimatums" against its Middle East ally after the approval of Arab League sanctions and calls from Washington and Europe for an immediate halt to a political crackdown by the Syrian government.

Previously, Moscow had said it would send a flotilla of warships to its naval base in Syria next year and called for a renewal of dialogue with Damascus, not more sanctions, to punish its refusal to tolerate dissent.

"We have an important relationship with Russia that encompasses a lot of issues," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

"We don't agree with Russia on every issue, but we certainly have agreed on many and have made significant progress as a result of the agreement that we do have."

Carney also noted that Russia had backed an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) board of governors vote censuring Iran for its nuclear weapons program this month, after intense US lobbying.

The United States has demanded that President Bashar al-Assad step down, saying his crackdown has deprived him of political legitimacy.

Obama has called for UN sanctions against Damascus and Washington has been leading efforts to isolate Syria over its behavior towards internal dissent.

But Russia last month used its Security Council veto to block a resolution condemning the crackdown by the Assad government and has made clear it will not contemplate UN sanctions against Damascus.

In recent days, Moscow told the West it had failed to condemn violations by the opposition in the unrest and became the first major power to liken the unrest in the country to a civil war.

Russia is also standing in the way of new sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

Some analysts have seen Russia's stand on Syria as a sign of increasing hawkishness with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin expected to reclaim the presidency next year.

Others have sensed a desire by Russia to rekindle its Cold War influence in the Middle East or to rebrand itself as a still major power.

© 2011 AFP

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