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Russia Says Syrian Opposition Bears 'Responsibility' For Ending Crisis

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov
Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's assurance to Russian officials that he will hold a constitutional referendum means that the Syrian opposition now "bears full responsibility" for ending the violence there.

Ryabkov added on February 10 that Western states that push the Syrian opposition into what he called "uncompromising measures" were "accomplices" in inflaming the crisis.

Western governments have expressed skepticism about Assad's assurances on moves to end the conflict, which were offered earlier this week during talks in Damascus between Assad and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Ryabkov added that Russia would not allow a repetition in Syria of the kind of events that ousted Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, and would block any United Nations Security Council resolution allowing foreign military intervention in Syria.

In other news, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah sharply criticized the February 4 veto by Russia and China of the draft UN Security Council resolution aimed at pressuring the Syrian regime to halt the violence.

In remarks broadcast on Saudi state television, Abdullah said the world's confidence in the United Nations had been shaken.

He said the Chinese and Russian vetoes were "an unfavorable initiative."

The Russian Duma on February 10 passed a resolution calling for the UN Security Council not to take sides in Syria and declaring that Russia opposes any military interference in any country without the explicit sanction of the Security Council.

Turkish Criticism

Elsewhere, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on February 10 that Russia made a "mistake" in vetoing a UN resolution supporting an Arab plan to urge Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to give up power.

In a speech in Washington, Davutoglu maintained Turkey opposes foreign intervention in Syria but Assad's decision to fight against his own people left Ankara no choice but to support the Syrian people.

"We want President Assad to be like a Gorbachev, to transform the system, to adapt after the Cold War structures," he said. "But Assad prefers to be like [former Serbian President Slobodan] Milosevic, and today Turkey is siding with the people of Homs like it sided with the people of Sarajevo."

Meanwhile, in related news, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has been invited to brief the General Assembly on the situation in Syria on February 13, according to Nihal Saad, the spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Pillay's spokesperson Rupert Colville reportedly told a news briefing in Geneva on February 10 that Pillay would be briefing the session, adding that he "believes they are considering a resolution," although he didn't know what it contained.

Compiled from agency reports