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    Russia to take Syria's side if conflict with U.S. arises - Russian MPs

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    MOSCOW, December 20 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will take Syria's side if charges against Syrian officials with involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri cause a conflict between the United States and Syria, two Russian parliamentary members said Tuesday.

    "If Russia is to choose between its two strategic allies, it will undoubtedly take Syria's side," said Shamil Sultanov, a coordinator of an inter-faction association, Russia and the Islamic World: A Strategic Dialogue.

    Nikolai Leonov, a member of parliament's security committee, who had recently visited Syria along with Sultanov and other MPs, said it was primarily beneficial for the U.S. to accuse Syria of murdering Hariri. "Indeed, Syria is an excellent oil corridor with access to deep-water Mediterranean ports. Besides, this is a good pretext to distract the world community's attention from the events in Iraq," the MP said.

    Leonov said earlier that he was concerned that Syria could face the Iraqi scenario.

    In October, an international commission chaired by Detlev Mehlis delivered a report to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and members of the Security Council suggesting that high-ranking Syrian and Lebanese officials had been involved in the February 14 killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria said the report was politically motivated and inaccurate.

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