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Russia tells West to halt Syria regime change efforts

Russian foreign minister says Russian government is putting pressure on Syrian government but urges world powers not to work for regime change

AFP , Monday 28 May 2012
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Russia said on Monday it did not support the Syrian government of President Bashar Al-Assad but urged world powers to work for the peace plan of UN envoy Kofi Annan and not regime change.

"We do not support the Syrian government. We support the plan of Kofi Annan," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a joint news conference with his British counterpart William Hague.

But he added that world powers had to "play the game of fulfilling the Kofi Annan plan and not the game of regime change."

Hague for his part warned there will be "chaos and civil war" if the Annan plan is not implemented.

Their meeting came after The New York Times reported the administration of US President Barack Obama is considering working with Russia on a plan for Assad's departure under a proposal modelled on the transition in Yemen.

Lavrov did not make any direct comment on the report but made clear that Russia's priority was not "who is in power" in Syria but ending the violence.
"We are deeply worried that the Annan plan is being implemented unsatisfactorily. We are still far from our goals," Lavrov said.

Russia had earlier joined other UN Security Council powers in condemning the Syrian government for using artillery in a massacre in the town of Houla that left 108 people dead, many of them children, and 300 injured.

Britain and France had proposed a UN statement making an even stronger condemnation of the Assad government but this was rejected by Russia.
In contrast to the West's placing of the blame for the massacre on the Syrian government, Lavrov said Moscow believed both the regime and the armed opposition shared the blame.

"Here we have a situation where both sides clearly had a hand in the fact that peaceful citizens were killed," he said.

Hague had called on Russia ahead of his trip to use its leverage with the Assad regime and Lavrov said: "We are putting pressure on the Syrian government on an almost daily basis.

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