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US: Russian Missile Shipments to Syria 'Very Unfortunate'

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U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) and Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey hold a joint news conference at the Pentagon in Washington, March 17, 2013.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel (L) and Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey hold a joint news conference at the Pentagon in Washington, March 17, 2013.

The top U.S. military officer says Russian missile shipments to Syria are "ill-timed" and "very unfortunate."

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, said Friday the missiles will embolden President Bashar al-Assad and prolong the suffering in Syria. He said Assad could think the missiles somehow will make him safer and more prone to a miscalculation.

The New York Times reports the Russian anti-ship cruise missiles are more advanced than previous shipments. Russia has said it is fulfilling its contractual obligations to Syria and has no interest in seeing Assad remain in power.

Russia and the United States are working on putting together an international peace conference on Syria for next month. The meeting would bring the opposition and Syrian government together and pave the way for a new transitional government.

France's Foreign Ministry said Friday it opposes Iranian participation in the peace talks. A spokesman says France cannot see how a country that threatens regional stability like Iran can take part.

Russia has said Iran, a close Syrian ally, must be included in the talks and accuses the West of trying to narrow the circle of participants. The United States has not yet said who can attend, saying it does not want to make any pre-determinations.

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