France urges UN to back Syria plan
British foreign secretary William Hague said he would hold urgent talks with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov tomorrow on the sidelines of the conference in Kabul to ask him to put pressure on Mr Assad to implement the Annan plan.
Russia has proposed a conference on Syria bringing together global and regional powers including Syria's ally Iran. Ms Clinton also said government forces were massing around Aleppo and that this could be "a red line for the Turks in terms of their strategic and national interests".
She did not specify if she was referring to the city of Aleppo, Syria's northerly commercial hub, or the province.
The 15-month-old conflict in Syria has grown into a full-scale civil war, the UN peacekeeping chief said yesterday.
However Syria's foreign ministry said today the UN's comments about civil war was an unrealistic description of the conflict.
"Talk of civil war in Syria is not consistent with reality... What is happening in Syria is a war against armed groups that choose terrorism," Syrian state news agency SANA quoted a Foreign Ministry statement as saying.
Many hundreds of people, including civilians, rebels and members of president Bashar al-Assad's army and security forces have been killed since a ceasefire deal brokered two months ago was meant to halt the bloodshed.
"We have confronted the Russians about stopping their continued arms shipments to Syria. They have, from time to time, said that we shouldn't worry - everything they are shipping is unrelated to their (the Syrian government's) actions internally," Ms Clinton said, addressing a forum in Washington. "That's patently untrue."
Ms Clinton did not offer any details about the source of her information about Russia's possible shipment of attack helicopters to Syria, saying only: "We are concerned about the latest information we have that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria."
She said such a sale "will escalate the conflict quite dramatically."
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters that Ms Clinton was concerned about helicopters now en route to Syria and not about possible past sales of Russian-origin attack helicopters to Syria. She said she could not elaborate or speculate on the source of Ms Clinton's information.
Russia and China are Dr Assad's principal defenders on the diplomatic front and, as permanent members of the UN Security Council with the power to veto resolutions, have stymied efforts by Western powers to condemn or call for the removal of Assad.
The United Nations says Dr Assad's forces have killed more than 10,000 people since the uprising against his family's four-decade rule of Syria broke out in March 2011.
Pentagon spokesman Capt John Kirby said he had no knowledge of a new helicopter shipment but acknowledged th the Assad regime was turning to helicopters to stage attacks. "We know that the Assad regime is using helicopter gunships against their own people," Capt Kirby said.