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US To Keep Copter Deal With Russian Arms Supplier To Syria For Afghan Security

3/14/2012 6:42 AM ET

The United States has said military obligations in Afghanistan does not allow it to drop a contract with a Russian arms exporting company, which is also a major contributor to the Russian supply of arms to the Syrian Army.

A move is afoot among a group of 17 Senators to ask the U.S. government to stop or to drop a $900-million contract with Rosoboronexport that supplies helicopters to the U.S. for use in Afghanistan.

During a daily press briefing on Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland was asked about the Department's view on the senators' proposal, and whether the United States could source those helicopters in any other place.

Nuland said it was in protest to Russia's continued arming of the Syrians that the Senators made the proposal, and that the State Department "obviously share the intent, which is to persuade Russia to end its arms supply to Syria."

She added that the United States' "relatively modest" contract with Rosoboronexport was to allow for the maintenance and upkeep of some former Soviet helicopters that were donated or purchased for the Afghan military, and that form part of the backbone of the small flying squad that the Afghans themselves have. These helicopters replace sorties that would otherwise have to be flown by ISAF helicopters.

"As only that entity actually has the spare parts, if this contract is canceled, it would seriously hurt our effort to get the Afghans increasingly into the lead of their own security," she said.

Nuland made the Department's stand clear by saying that "we need to obviously continue to make our views known and strengthen the international chorus, which we are trying to do; that everybody ought to be thinking hard about its relationship, and particularly its arming relationship with the Assad regime. But at the same time, we also have a requirement to help the Afghans become increasingly self-sustaining in their ability to lead their security efforts at home."

by RTT Staff Writer

For comments and feedback: editorial@rttnews.com

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