Russia condemns Syria's suspension from Arab League
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday condemned Syria's suspension from the Arab League over its lethal crackdown on protests, saying the move was "incorrect."
"We believe this to be incorrect," Russian news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying in the Russian Far East city of Khabarovsk. "And this looks pre-planned."
Late last week the Arab League announced Syria's suspension, drawing international applaud but sparking mob attacks on foreign embassies in Damascus.
The move, to take effect on Wednesday, was prompted by Syria's failure to comply with an agreement to end its crackdown on protests, which the United Nations says has left at least 3,500 people dead since mid-March.
"Those who took this decision have lost a very important opportunity to make the situation more transparent," Lavrov was quoted as saying.
"Someone really does not want the Syrians to agree among themselves."
But Syria's protest organisers blasted Russia for opposing the decision.
The General Commission for the Syrian Revolution said Russia's position "supports the criminal regime of President Bashar al-Assad" and "ignores the blood spilled by the Syrian people as well as their right to dignity."
"We call on the delegation of the Syrian National Council to Moscow to deliver a strong message to the Russian authorities and denounce its support for the crimes," commited by the regime in Damascus, it added.
The council is a major opposition player grouping different currents.
"We are stunned by Russia's determination to make an enemy out of the Syrian people," the statement continued.
Separately, Lavrov said that Russia on Tuesday would host one of Syria's top opposition leaders, Syrian National Council president Burhan Ghalioun.
"We will try to get them to understand our concern that the fight for power is a thing that can often become a goal in itself," ITAR-Tass quoted Lavrov as saying. "But you have to think about your country, your people."
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in October called on the embattled Assad to accept reforms or resign but Russia has nevertheless opposed UN sanctions against Syria, insisting on the need for dialogue instead.
Lavrov also accused the West of instigating the Syrian opposition to seek regime change in the country.
"When these people hear tough statements from Washington and Brussels that it's impossible to conduct any dialogue with Assad and there's a need to let him know that he needs to go, this, of course, does not encourage them to have constructive dialogue," he was quoted as saying.
A Russian official quoted by Interfax news agency on Sunday said his country will continue exporting arms to Syria since no international decision has been made outlawing it.
© 2011 AFP