Russia Providing Assad with Helicopter Gunships

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- Russia is adding helicopter gunships to the supply of weaponry for Syrian President Bashar Assad, as the 15-month-old conflict develops into all-out civil war.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States has confronted Russia about the arms sales.

"We have confronted the Russians about stopping their continued arms shipments to Syria," Clinton said during a luncheon in Washington, D.C., honoring Haim and Cheryl Saban, founders of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.
 
"And we are concerned about the latest information we have -- that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria, which will escalate the conflict quite dramatically," she said.

Clinton said the U.S. drew a "red line" with the "inclusion of Iran."

"We thought that would be a grave error since we know that Iran is not only supporting the Assad regime but actively mentoring, leading, encouraging not merely the regular army, but the militias that are springing up and engaging in sectarian conflict," she said.

Meanwhile, for the first time since the anti-government protests began, a senior U.N. official said the fighting could be called a civil war.

"Clearly what is happening is that the government of Syria lost some large chunks of territory in several cities to the opposition and wants to retake control of these areas," Undersecretary-General for U.N. Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous told Reuters.

"Now we have confirmed reports of not only of the use of tanks and artillery but also attack helicopters," Ladsous said.

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