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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia, Syria Condemn U.S. Embargo on Firms

The Foreign Ministry on Sunday denounced U.S. sanctions against three Russian firms that built anti-tank missiles allegedly supplied to Syria.

"We have said numerous times that Russian-Syrian cooperation does not fall under any international sanctions, does not go against any nonproliferation or export control agreements, and doesn't disturb the balance of power" in the Middle East, the ministry said.

Syria also condemned the U.S. sanctions Sunday, which come as President Hafez al-Assad prepared to visit Moscow to boost bilateral ties.

Syrian diplomats said Assad would visit Moscow on April 13 for talks with Russian leaders on ways of promoting cooperation in all fields in addition to the stalled Syrian-Israeli peace negotiations.

"The talks are expected to cover military as well as economic and political cooperation between Syria and Russia," one diplomat said.

A trip to Moscow by Assad had been planned for a long time but the April date was fixed recently, diplomats said.

The U.S. State Department said Friday it would ban purchases from and exports to the three Russian firms for building missiles that were allegedly sold to Syria, which is on the department's list of countries that sponsor terrorism.

The three firms are the Tula Design Bureau, the Volsk Mechanical Plant and the Central Research Institute for Machine-Tool Engineering.

The Foreign Ministry said the action was another anti-Russian move by the U.S. that would only continue to sour relations with Moscow. "The U.S.A. is once again trying to replace international agreements with its internal laws and demonstrates disrespect for international norms and principles of conduct," the ministry said. "The Russian side voices its protest against yet another anti-Russian action by the U.S. administration," it added. "We reserve a right for taking adequate steps in response." The statement gave no further details.

U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin said Friday that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright had determined that the Russian government was involved in the weapons transfer.

But he made clear that the Russian government will not be subject to sanctions and will preserve $90 million in U.S. aid to Moscow that otherwise would have been put in jeopardy.

Russian-U.S. relations are strained over several issues, most significantly NATO's bombing campaign in Yugoslavia, a long-time Russian ally. Russia has repeatedly called for an end to the airstrikes.