Russia to host Syria opposition after veto

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Russia said Wednesday it will host a Syrian opposition delegation later this month despite using its veto against a Western-backed UN resolution condemning Bashar al-Assad's use of deadly force.

"In October we intend to receive in Moscow two Syrian opposition delegations: one from the domestic wing of the opposition based in Damascus, and the second from those who declared the so-called national council," Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich told journalists in televised remarks.

Although officially invited to attend a public function, they "will be received at the foreign ministry", Lukashevich said without revealing the exact dates of the visit.

Russia together with China had earlier infuriated the United States and several European powers including Britain, France and Germany by vetoing a binding resolution against Assad's regime.

The document called for "targeted measures" if Assad refrained from carrying out reforms and continues the crackdown on the opposition, which has left at least 2,700 dead according to UN estimates.

Russia had proposed an alternative resolution, which condemned the opposition violence as well as that of the government and called for dialogue to end the crisis, but Western powers refused to back it.

"Attempts to turn what happened with Security Council decisions on Libya into some kind of model for the western coalition and NATO... of reacting to crises: that is an absolutely unacceptable model for Russia," Lukashevich said.

Russia and China previously abstained on the UN Security Council resolution on Libya that paved the way for Western intervention, later criticising the scope of the air raids and casualties in the conflict aimed to remove Moamer Kadhafi from power.

Moscow has already hosted several Syrian opposition members while achieving few concrete results, with the latest delegation in September including the head of National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria Ammar Qurabi.

While few details of his meeting with senior senator Mikhail Margelov were released, Qurabi said Moscow's demands for direct negotiation were futile as long as the government resorted to force.

Qurabi at the time said his primary purpose in Moscow was "to tell the Russian media about what is happening in Syria so they could help us and put pressure on the Russian leadership."

Assad's aide Bouthaina Shaaban also undermined Moscow's calls for peaceful talks in course of her visit to Moscow, saying that there was no party in Syria with which mediation was possible.

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev said last month that some Syrians protesting against Assad were terrorists and defended the Syrian regime against sanctions.

In response Syrian activists held several protests against Russia.

© 2011 AFP

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