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Russia striking IS, Al-Nusra targets in Syria, like US: Lavrov

AFP , Thursday 1 Oct 2015
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addresses the media during the United Nations General Assembly at the United Nations in Manhattan, New York, October 1, 2015 (Photo: Reuters)
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Russia agrees with the US-led coalition on hitting targets in Syria linked to the Islamic State, Al-Nusra Front and other "terrorist groups," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday.

"We see eye to eye with the coalition on this one," Lavrov told a news conference at UN headquarters.

"We have the same approach: it's ISIL, Al-Nusra and other terrorist groups," he said.

Russia launched its first air attacks in war-torn Syria on Wednesday, striking opposition-held areas in the central provinces of Homs and Hama, and pounding targets again in Hama and Idlib in the northwest on Thursday.

The United States and France expressed doubts that Moscow was targeting the Islamic State group, but Lavrov maintained that there was no disagreement with the US-led coalition on who to fight in Syria.

The foreign minister dismissed claims by US Senator John McCain that Russian warplanes hit US-backed rebels fighting President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

Asked about the report, Lavrov said: "You state this as a fact. Do you know something that I don't?"

The Russian foreign minister declined to be drawn into questions about which specific groups were considered terrorists, but added that the US- and Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army was not among them.

"If it acts like a terrorist, if it walks like a terrorist, if it fights like a terrorist, it's a terrorist, right?" he asked rhetorically.

"We don't consider the Free Syrian Army a terrorist group. We believe that (the) Free Syrian Army should be part of the political process, like some other armed groups on the ground."

Russia is not planning to expand its air campaign to neighboring Iraq, he added, stressing that there had been no such request from the Baghdad government.

"We were not invited, we were not asked, and we are polite people, as you know. We don't come if not invited," Lavrov said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in he would consider allowing Russia to carry out air strikes on the jihadists on Iraqi territory.

At the UN General Assembly, President Vladimir Putin used his speech this week to call for a broad coalition against IS jihadists that would include the Syrian army.

Russia has presented a draft UN resolution that would strengthen the fight against the Islamic State with the consent of Assad's regime.

The five-page draft resolution calls on "all states to participate to the extent possible in these efforts and to coordinate their activities with the consent of the states."

No vote has been scheduled on the draft resolution and it remained doubtful that the United States would back the measure.

"There are many resolutions which were initiated and have turned out to be unrealistic," Lavrov acknowledged.

"But I don't know. How can you dispute this very simple sentence: if a state is an object of terrorist threat, how can you leave this state aside from collective efforts?"

The United States and its allies have ruled out cooperation with Assad's regime, which they accuse of contributing to IS's rise with a brutal war that has left more than 240,000 dead.

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