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Syrian opposition lobbies Russia for support

Russian parliament's foreign affairs chief, Mikhail Margelov, meets a visiting Syrian delegation which is trying to secure a more opposition-friendly stance from Russia

AFP , Friday 9 Sep 2011
Views: 1762
Views: 1762

Syria's opposition leaders said they expected more support from Russia on Friday after President Dmitry Medvedev accused some of those protesting against Bashar al-Assad of being "terrorists".

The Russian upper house of parliament's foreign affairs chief Mikhail Margelov met a visiting Syrian delegation that included National Organisation for Human Rights in Syria head Ammar Qurabi.

Russia has refused to back Western sanctions against its regional ally and Medvedev told Euronews on the eve of the visit that some members of the opposition "could even be described as terrorists".

Qurabi did not address the comments directly but said after his talks with Margelov that he expected Moscow to play a more "positive" role.

"Russia should be playing a more active and positive role in regulating the political situation in Syria," Qurabi told reporters.

Qurabi 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."

Medvedev argues that the West takes a biased approach to Syria and refuses to put pressure on the opposition to give up their street protests and engage in direct talks.

But Qurabi said that Russia's demands for direct negotiations were futile as long as Assad continued to resort to force.

"Only one side has been using force in Syria -- it is the powers supporting the country's government," Qurabi said. "You cannot have negotiations when arms and tanks ... are being used against civilians."

Margelov for his part said he will meet Assad's top adviser Buthaina Shaaban in Moscow on Monday and seek authorisation from Syria to send a delegation of Russian senators to Damascus to check on the situation on the ground.

Russia has expressed repeated worries that a UN sanctions resolution on Syria could lead to a military offensive similar to the one in Libya -- a campaign it opposed but did not block at the Security Council.

"Russia will do everything possible to make sure that that the situation in Syria did not follow the Libya scenario," Margelov said.

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