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Russian Official Says Syria's Assad Needs To 'Take First Step'

Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the foreign policy committee for Russia's upper house of parliament.
Mikhail Margelov, the chairman of the foreign policy committee for Russia's upper house of parliament, has said that the conflict in Syria needs to be stopped and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should take the first step.

Margelov, who is also the Russian president's special envoy for Africa, pointed to a UN Security Council statement supporting UN special envoy to Syria Kofi Annan's peace initiative.

Margelov said it wasn't a mandatory resolution but he said Syrian officials should note that the statement was "adopted unanimously" by the Security Council.

"This means President Bashar al-Assad should immediately rectify a multitude of mistakes, which he, according to the official opinion of Russia, has made."

Margelov said trhat as part of his "first step," Assad should "withdraw the Syrian Army from large cities and send humanitarian aid to those who have suffered during the conflict."

Violence Continues Despite International Pressure

In related news, opposition activists say clashes flared across Syria on March 22 despite the UN Security Council's plea for all sides to stop fighting and seek a negotiated settlement to the year-long violence.

The appeal had little impact on the ground, where opposition sources said tanks shelled the central city of Hama after fighting between rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.

In Vienna, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called for an international action plan to stop the "human tragedy" in Syria, saying that "just making calls is not enough."

Meanwhile, reports said EU foreign ministers were set to slap a travel ban and assets freeze on President Bashar al-Assad's wife, Asma, and other members of his family on March 23.

The UN estimates more than 8,000 people have been killed in Syria since the uprising against Assad's government began last year.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP ITAR-TASS Rus. and AP