Russia tells Syria to speed up political reforms

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Russia on Saturday urged its Middle East ally Syria to accelerate its political reforms after more than 80 people were reported killed in one of the bloodiest days of a month-long pro-democracy uprising.

The Russian foreign ministry said in a statement that Moscow was "concerned by the heightening of tensions and signs of a confrontation that is leading to the suffering of innocent people."

"We are firmly convinced that only constructive dialogue and accelerated broad-scale political, social and economic reforms outlined by the Syrian leadership can achieving stable and democratic development," the statement said.

Russia has retained close ties with Syria since the Soviet era and is currently supplying the country with advanced missiles and other arms.

Syrian forces killed more than 80 people on Friday in one of the bloodiest days of protests since unprecedented pro-democracy demonstrations erupted on March 15, rights groups said.

© 2011 AFP

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