US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Friday of the possibility of a civil war in Syria that either is directed or influenced by Syrian army defectors.

"I think there could be a civil war with a very determined and well-armed and eventually well-financed opposition that is, if not directed by, certainly influenced by defectors from the army," Clinton told the US network NBC.

"We're already seeing that, something that we hate to see because we are in favor of a peaceful... protest and non-violent opposition," the chief US diplomat said.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday that an attack like the one on a Syrian intelligence base by army defectors -- who have formed the Free Syria Army -- could lead the country into a civil war.

But Clinton's deputy spokesman Mark Toner had disagreed, saying Thursday: "We think that's an incorrect assessment."

He added: "If it (Russia) characterizes it as a civil war, we view that it is very much the Assad regime carrying out a campaign of violence, intimidation and repression against innocent protesters."

Toner has said that violent acts by the opposition play into the hands of the Syrian regime which claims a largely peaceful movement is led by thugs and "terrorists."

Clinton also squarely put the blame for the violence on the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. "The way the Assad regime has responded has provoked people into taking up arms against them," she said.