Russia accuses West of inciting Syrian opposition


RUSSIA HAS accused the West of inciting the Syrian rebels who killed four senior figures of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s regime and warned that backing the rebels will mean more bloodshed.

“Instead of calming the opposition down, some of our partners [in the UN Security Council] are inciting it to go on,” Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said.

Supporting the opposition, he said, “is a dead-end policy because Assad is not leaving voluntarily”.

Russian foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich added: “Moscow strongly condemns all forms and manifestations of terrorism. We hope the masterminds of the terrorist attack in Damascus will be found and brought to justice.”

The rebel bomb struck on the day the UN Security Council was set to vote on a western draft resolution designed to exert pressure on the Assad regime to carry out the terms of the peace plan put forward by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.

Mr Annan’s request to delay the vote has been granted and it has been rescheduled for today.

He asked the council to postpone the vote as it remained divided over the handling of the escalating crisis.

The draft, submitted by the US, Britain, France and Germany, calls for the imposition of nonmilitary sanctions under chapter seven of the UN Charter if the Assad regime fails to withdraw troops and heavy weapons from urban areas within 10 days.

While the sponsors of the resolution contend that placing implementation under chapter seven does not mean this would authorise military action, Russia and China argue that the West could use the resolution to intervene militarily in Syria, as they did in Libya.

Russia has also submitted a text providing for the “immediate implementation” of Mr Annan’s plan and calling for a political transition in line with the proposal adopted at a meeting in Geneva last month. Russia and China consider mention of chapter seven and sanctions “red lines” and insist that the transition should be Syrian-led and not ordered by external powers.

“Adopting a resolution against [the backdrop of the bombing] would amount to direct support for the revolutionary movement. If we are talking about a revolution, then the security council has no place in this,” said Mr Lavrov.

Both resolutions are tied to the renewal by tomorrow of the mandate of the UN monitoring mission in Syria, which was deployed to observe implementation of the Annan plan and initiate dialogue between the warring sides.

British foreign secretary William Hague argued that the bombing demonstrated the urgent need for a chapter seven resolution, which would provide for “enforcement of Annan’s plan to end the violence”.

French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said the Syrian government was “not in control of the situation”, while US defence secretary Leon Panetta called on the international community to “bring maximum pressure on Assad to step down and allow for that peaceful transition”.

Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan argued that the prolongation of the process of change in Syria was “resulting in more and more massacres being committed by Assad, just like his father”, who crushed a Muslim Brotherhood revolt in Hama in 1982.

Bassma Kodmani, a spokeswoman for the expatriate Syrian National Council (SNC), said that if the council failed to take decisive action, the opposition would consider other options.

The SNC has been demanding a no-fly zone, corridors for delivering humanitarian aid, and arms for the rebel Free Syrian Army.

Ms Kodmani said Russian and Chinese vetoes of the western resolution would amount to a “blank cheque to continue the violence”.