Russia says West fanning flames of Syria conflict

UK defense minister: "Behavior of Syrian regime is appalling and unacceptable," working with Arab League against Assad.

November 21, 2011 14:08
2 minute read.
Syrian demonstrators protest against Assad in Homs

Demonstrators protest against Syria's President Assad 311 R. (photo credit: Reuters)

MOSCOW - Russia accused Western nations of undermining the chances for a peaceful resolution in Syria on Monday, saying the West was urging President Bashar Assad's opponents not to seek compromise with the government.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's remarks were the latest sign of support for Assad from Russia, which joined China last month in vetoing a Western-drafted UN Security Council resolution condemning his government's eight-month crackdown on protests.

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Lavrov reiterated Russia's position that opponents of Assad share responsibility for the violence and should face concerted international pressure to enter talks with the government, Russian news agencies reported.

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"Yes, it's necessary to stop the violence, but these demands must be addressed both to the authorities and to armed groups that have mixed in with the Syrian opposition," Interfax quoted Lavrov as saying.

Earlier Monday, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said that the international community would do as much as it could to turn up the pressure on Syria after Assad said he would not bow to pressure to crack down on protesters.

"We will increase the pressure on the Assad regime. I discussed this with the Secretary of the Arab League yesterday and I believe they will wish to do so at their further meeting tomorrow," he told BBC Radio in an interview.

"The behavior of that regime is appalling and unacceptable and of course we will do what we can to support democracy in Syria in the future."

Assad said on Saturday that military intervention in Syria would “shake the entire Middle East,”  in his first interview with Western media since the start of a popular uprising challenging his authoritarian rule.

“The conflict will continue and the pressure to subjugate Syria will continue. Syria will not bow down,” Assad told Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper in an interview published late on Saturday.

Western military intervention, he said, would destabilize an already unstable Middle East reeling from the fallout of popular uprisings in the Arab Spring.

Assad attributed widespread reports of torture and abuse by security forces as “mistakes,” and said he regrets the violence.

By a UN account, some 3,500 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the unrest.

“Each spilt drop of blood concerns me personally,” he said, reiterating the official line that the bloodshed is the result of armed terrorist activity.

Oren Kessler contributed to this report.

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