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Russia says Syria veto 'no blank cheque'
Appeal made for national dialogue following Medvedev's warning that Syrian leaders should enact reforms or step down.
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2011 07:00
Syrian opposition members who travelled to Moscow thanked Russia for vetoing the UN sanctions resolution [Reuters]

Russia has told both the Syrian government and the opposition that real actions are needed to solve the internal crisis in Syria, according to the Russian upper house of parliament's foreign-affairs chief.

Following a meeting in Moscow with representatives of the Syrian opposition, Mikhail Margelov said on Monday the conflict sides should urgently start a broad and comprehensive national dialogue.

"The Russian veto at the UN Security Council on the Syria draft resolution is no way a carte blanche for the
current ruling Syrian regime to do everything they want," he said.

"We are indulging neither the regime nor the opposition, no way, it is actually the last bell.

"With our veto at the UN Security Council we have used up the whole tool kit which international law offers us. This is the last appeal to the authorities and the opposition to take their places around the table and to start a national dialogue."

Margelov's appeal followed Russian President Dmitri Medvedev's statement last week that Syria's leaders should step down if they cannot enact reforms, but warned the West not to try to push President Bashar al-Assad from power.

Towards compromise

Medvedev's remarks appeared aimed to push Assad towards compromise and to patch up Russia's image after it blocked a Security Council draft resolution that would have condemned Syria's deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

He also made clear that Russia opposes change in Syria on terms set by the West.

For their part, the visiting Syrian opposition members praised the Russian efforts.

"We, the representatives of the internal opposition, have come from Syria to say 'thank you for the veto' to the Russian Federation," Qadri Jamil, secretary-general of the National Committee for Unity of Syrian Communists, said on Monday.

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"Why? Because of the fact that it made it possible to prevent external interference in Syrian affairs, and opens the way for dialogue.

"Preventing external interference [in Syria's affairs] provides safety guarantees for the civilians in Syria."

Russia had said it will oppose almost any resolution condemning Assad, making Syria a red line for Moscow after it had allowed NATO air raids in Libya by refraining from using its veto in a Security Council vote in March.

Russia said the draft UN resolution could have led to military intervention.

Russia has repeatedly urged Syria's government to implement promised reforms, but has differed starkly with
Western nations by saying Assad needs more time to do so, and has said his opponents share the blame for months of bloodshed.

Russia has accused the West of betraying its trust, charging that NATO overstepped its mandate to protect
civilians and used the UN resolution to depose Muammar Gaddafi by force.

Medvedev suggested the latest draft resolution on Syria had a similar aim and said other Security Council nations had refused to include language ruling out military intervention.

West warned

On the domestic front, Syria's highest Sunni Muslim religious leader has given warning to Western countries against military intervention and also threatened to retaliate with suicide bombings in the US and Europe if Syria comes under attack.

"I say to all of Europe, I say to America, we will set up suicide bombers who are now in your countries, if you bomb Syria or Lebanon," Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddine Hassoun said in a speech late on Sunday evening.

"From now on, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth."

Hassoun spoke to a delegation of Lebanese women who came to offer their condolences for his son's death by unknown assailants earlier this month.

"Don't come near our country, I beg you."

Hassoun's comments follow another warning by Walid Moallem, Syria's foreign minister, who told the international community not to recognise the new umbrella council formed by the opposition, threatening "tough measures" against any country that does so.

Source:
Agencies
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