The Latest: Russia says not invited to strike in Iraq

AP News
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Posted: Oct 01, 2015 12:01 PM
The Latest: Russia says not invited to strike in Iraq

MOSCOW (AP) — The latest developments as Russia and other nations counter Islamic State militants in Syria. All times local:

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6:55 p.m.

Russia's foreign minister says his country has not been invited by Iraq to carry out airstrikes against the Islamic State group and others.

Sergey Lavrov was speaking to reporters Thursday on the sidelines of a U.N. gathering of world leaders.

"We are polite people, we don't come if not invited," Lavrov said.

He also defended the targets of Russia's airstrikes in Syria, saying, "If the U.S. coalition targets only terrorist groups, then we do the same."

Lavrov said Russia does not consider the Western-backed Free Syrian Army a terrorist group.

"We consider terrorists those who have been recognized as such by the U.N. and Russia's legal system," he said.

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6:45 p.m.

Russia's foreign minister says the first military contact between his country and the United States on Russia's airstrikes in Syria will happen "very, very soon."

Sergey Lavrov was speaking to reporters Thursday on the sidelines of a U.N. gathering of world leaders.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday told reporters that military talks would happen as soon as Thursday as the United States wants to "de-conflict" and avoid complications with the U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in Syria.

Lavrov also told reporters that "we believe that our position is absolutely in line with international law."

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6:35 p.m.

Russia's foreign minister says his country and the U.S.-coalition "see eye-to-eye" on the targets of their fight against terrorism in Syria.

Sergey Lavrov was speaking to reporters Thursday on the sidelines of a U.N. gathering of world leaders.

"We have the same approach: It's ISIL, Nusra and other groups," Lavrov said.

He also defended cooperating with the Syrian government, asking how it could be left out of such a fight in its own country.

And he rejected the ideas that the airstrikes were supporting Syria's government and were an attempt to distract the world's attention from the fighting in Ukraine.

"It's always possible to find some absurd interpretation of what's going on," Lavrov said.

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5:35 p.m.

Turkey's foreign minister says his country has not been approached by Russia to join its intelligence-sharing cooperation announced over the weekend with Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Feridun Sinirlioglu spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday on the sidelines of a U.N. gathering of world leaders.

The news of Russia's latest military moves in Syria, including airstrikes, has overshadowed the gathering.

Sinirlioglu earlier told reporters that if reports of the Russian airstrikes hitting civilians and Syria's opposition are true, it could lead to "further escalation, and that is the last thing that we need in this very tragic and chaotic situation in Syria."

The foreign minister said Syrian President Bashar Assad cannot play a part in any political solution to Syria's crisis, now well into its fifth year.

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3:35 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied reports that Russian airstrikes in Syria have caused civilian deaths.

Speaking at a meeting with rights activists in the Kremlin, Putin on Thursday described the reports as "information attacks."

Putin insisted that reports of civilian deaths came before Russian jets even took off from their bases in Syria.

Khaled Khoja, head of the Syrian National Council opposition group, said at the U.N. on Wednesday that Russian airstrikes in four areas, including Talbiseh, killed 36 civilians, with five children among the dead. The claim could not be independently verified.

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3:15 p.m.

Activists report that Russian jets are suspected of targeting a strategic city in the rebel-controlled Syrian northwestern Idlib province.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the airstrikes Thursday have hit near a mosque in the city of Jisr al-Shughour. The city fell in April to a coalition of rebel groups that includes al-Qaida's affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra. The province totally fell to the rebels last month, the latest in a series of setbacks for the government of Bashar Assad in the country's civil war.

Idlib was the second province to go to the opposition. The northeastern Raqqa province previously fell to the Islamic State group before.

The Observatory and other activists reported an earlier other attack in the province Thursday, including one against a U.S.-backed rebel group.

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2:30 p.m.

Russia's defense ministry says it has damaged or destroyed 12 targets in Syria belonging to the Islamic State militant group, including a command center and ammunition depots.

Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in televised comments on Thursday that the Russian air force in the past 24 hours has hit 12 Islamic State targets, destroying among other things a command center and two arms depots.

Konashenkov said Russian Su-25M and Su-25 jets have made 20 sorties. He insisted that Russian jets were only targeting militant positions were not carrying out attacks on civilian areas.

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2:10 p.m.

Activists in Syria are reporting a number of airstrikes in the country's north and center which they suspect were carried out by Russian jets.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says airstrikes in the central province of Hama on Thursday have hit locations of the U.S-backed rebel group, Tajamu Alezzah. The British group said Tajamu Alezzah was also targeted on Wednesday.

An activist in the city of Kafranbel, Raed Fares, says two airstrikes outside of the city were carried out by Russian-operated jets. He says their communications in Russian intercepted. Fares said the targets outside of the northern city appeared to be a checkpoint operated by rebels backed by the United States.

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1:35 p.m.

A member of the Czech government has warned that Russian airstrikes in Syria can only worsen the migrant crisis in Europe and result in a new wave of refugees.

Addressing the lower house of Parliament, Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said Thursday: "I am looking with a deep distrust at the Russian military engagement in the area," adding that airstrikes alone "solve nothing."

Chovanec says there are millions of Syrians displaced from their homes in their own country and "if they lose hope the war will end ... they'll be again heading for Germany."

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12:55 p.m.

The Foreign Ministry in Tehran says that Iran fully supports Russian airstrikes against "terrorist groups" in Syria.

According to a statement by the ministry's spokeswoman, Marzieh Afkham, the "Islamic Republic of Iran considers military action by Russia against armed terrorist groups to be a step toward fighting terrorism and toward resolving the current crisis" in Syria.

She says the Russian airstrikes come in response to an "official request by Syria's government from the Russian Federation." The statement was carried by the official IRNA news agency.

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12:20 p.m.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia's airstrikes in Syria are targeting not only Islamic State militants but also other extremist groups.

Russia on Wednesday carried out its first airstrikes in Syria. Moscow insisted that it was targeting IS militants while U.S. officials and other cast doubt on the claim, saying the Russians appeared to be attacking opposition groups fighting Syrian government forces.

Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday that Russia is going after IS militants and other "well-known" groups.

Asked whether Russia is choosing its own targets or following the instructions of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Peskov said the targets were chosen "in coordination" with the Syrian army.

The Russian defense ministry said late Wednesday Russia had carried out 20 airstrikes.