Russia warns against foreign intervention in Syria
ALMATY - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday warned against foreign intervention in Syria, calling on the Syrian opposition not to seek a repeat of the "Libya scenario".
Lavrov's comments, on a visit to the central Asian nation of Kazakhstan, underlined growing Russian concern that Western powers have overstepped the mark in Libya and the situation in Syria may also spill out of control.
"We are very worried that the process of reconciliation, the process of the start of dialogue -- all healthy forces in Syria including the Syrian leadership are in favour of that -- is being slowed down by a desire of some participants to attract foreign forces to support their actions," Russian news agencies quoted Lavrov as saying.
He warned against a repeat of the "Libya scenario", where a Western coalition is carrying out air strikes against regime targets in a campaign that is increasingly troubling Moscow.
"The betting is that outside players will appreciate the problem and will not only discuss but also subsequently repeat the Libyan situation, for example, interfere using methods of force among other things," Lavrov said.
"It is a great pity that the Libyan situation has created a huge temptation for many opposition members in that region to create a similar situation and expect that the West will not stand aside but will be interfering in the conflict in favour of one of the sides."
In March, Russia chose to abstain from the UN Security Council resolution on Libya that essentially authorised military action to protect Libyan civilians.
But the Kremlin has lately accused the West of exceeding the UN mandate by essentially supporting the Libyan rebels and getting entangled in a full-blown military operation in north Africa.
As the situation in Syria escalates, Moscow has clashed with the West at the United Nations over Damascus's deadly crackdown on opposition protests, blocking a proposed Security Council statement condemning the violence.
Speaking in an interview with Moskovskie Novosti newspaper published this week, Lavrov complained that the West abused Russia's willingness to cooperate on Libya.
He said that from now on Moscow would look at any attempts by the UN to authorise the use of force through a "huge magnifying glass."
Lavrov also said all the countries should be held accountable for their policies at the UN Security Council.
"In our opinion, in the opinion of countries such as Brazil, India, China and South Africa the answers given by the coalition to the questions asked cannot fully satisfy us so far," Lavrov was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday warned Syria it will face more international pressure over its crackdown on popular protests, behavior she called "a sign of remarkable weakness."
Speaking on the sidelines of an Arctic Council meeting in Greenland, Clinton and her Danish counterpart Lene Espersen raised anew the possibility of tighter US and European sanctions against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
Clinton lamented that Syria has continued with "a brutal crackdown" against pro-democracy protesters despite what she called overwhelming international condemnation.
"Syria's future will only be secured by a government that reflects the popular will of all of the people and protects their welfare."
Washington would "continue to work with our international partners in the EU (European Union) and elsewhere on additional (ways) to hold Syria responsible for its gross human rights abuses," she said.
"We are working with our international partners to make as strong a case as possible to sanction those who are leading and implementing the policies that are coming from the government," she added.