Tensions between Washington and Moscow over Syria escalated yesterday after it emerged that Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, may have indulged in a "little spin" when she said Russia was delivering attack helicopters to President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
Both Russia and Syria have denied the allegation, while US officials quietly conceded that the implication that the helicopters were new may have been inaccurate.
They may instead have been old ones that were simply being sent back to the Syrians after routine servicing in Russia.
On Tuesday Mrs Clinton said the US was "concerned about the latest information we have that there are attack helicopters on the way from Russia to Syria, which will escalate the conflict quite dramatically".
With no evidence of any contracts for new helicopters for Damascus, US officials were forced, within 24 hours, to qualify the remark. "She put a little spin on it to put the Russians in a difficult position," a Pentagon official told the 'New York Times'.
The new row comes as US President Barack Obama prepares to travel to a G20 summit in Mexico, where he will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It is likely to complicate efforts by the US and other Western powers to persuade Russia to join them in putting pressure on the Assad regime.
In Syria, violence on the ground escalated yesterday as a car bomb exploded in Damascus, wounding 14 people and damaging a Shia shrine. (© Independent News Service)