Syrian base attack 'similar to civil war': Russia

17th November 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia on Thursday warned the attack by Syrian army defectors on a Damascus military intelligence base resembled a scene from a civil war, urging the Arab League to call on all sides to halt violence.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the West and the Arab League should not just single out President Bashar al-Assad over the violence but also urge restraint from the opposition.

"Today I saw a television report about some new so-called rebel Free Syrian Army organising an attack on the government building, on the building belonging to Syria's armed forces," he told reporters.

"This was quite similar to a true civil war."

Syrian army defectors known as the Free Syrian Army attacked a military intelligence base just outside Damascus on Wednesday in one of the most daring raids by the opposition in eight months of unrest.

Moscow, a key ally of Damascus from Soviet times, has refused to back Western calls for sanctions against the regime of Bashar al-Assad and repeatedly blamed the Syrian opposition for the unrest in the country.

Lavrov said the conflict was being fuelled by considerable smuggling of arms into Syria.

"There are more and more weapons that are being smuggled in from neighbouring countries," Lavrov told a news conference with his Indian counterpart.

Lavrov told reporters earlier this week that arms were smuggled into Syria from Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and "obviously other countries."

"No-one disputes these facts although few comment on them," he said. "Armed extremists are using peaceful protesters."

The Arab League the day earlier gave Assad three days to halt his "bloody repression" of anti-regime protests risk sanctions. But Lavrov said Arab League's recent peace plan for Syria should be made more "concrete."

"The Arab League's position on the necessity to stop violence -- irrespective from where it comes -- needs to be made detailed and more concrete," he said.

He said that the world should condemn both sides for the violence and not just the Assad regime.

"For the realisation of the Arab League initiative, we propose that all the states that are concerned about the peaceful resolution of the events in Syria call not only on the Syrian authorities to stop violence but also all opposition groups, without exception."

"This should be done both on behalf of the Arab League and those countries whose territory the opposition is working from," Lavrov said.

Members of the largest Syrian opposition grouping, the Syrian National Council, this week met Lavrov for talks in Moscow but failed to persuade Russia to toughen its position against the Assad regime.

© 2011 AFP

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