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Putin calls for ‘restraint and caution’ over Syria

Filed on November 18, 2011

MOSCOW — Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin Friday called for restraint over the Syria crisis, after talks with his French counterpart who accused President Bashar al-Assad of being deaf to pressure.

“We are calling for restraint and caution. This is our position,” Putin told a news conference, the day after his foreign minister had likened the situation in Syria to a civil war.

Russia has accused the Syrian opposition of stoking the unrest in the country, a position that has irked the West which wants Moscow to join unequivocal international pressure against Assad.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon issued a sterner statement against Damascus, saying Assad was ignoring international calls for reforms and an end to the lethal crackdown on demonstrators.

“We consider that the situation is becoming more and more dramatic. Bashar al-Assad has stayed deaf to the calls of the international community and has not followed up reform promises and the massacres are continuing,” Fillon said.

“We think that it is indispensable to increase international pressure and we have tabled a resolution at the United Nations. We hope it will find as wide support as possible,” he added.

Diplomats from Germany, France and Britain tabled a resolution condemning human rights abuses by the Syrian government at the UN General Assembly’s human rights committee on Thursday for a vote expected next Tuesday, officials said.

Success could increase pressure on the UN Security Council to act over the Syria crisis. Russia and China last month vetoed a council resolution condemning the deadly crackdown by Assad’s forces.

Putin’s call for restraint came after he was asked by a reporter whether Russia would support a UN resolution condemning the Syrian regime, but it was unclear if his answer referred directly to this.

But Putin emphasised that Russia was ready to work with the international community.

“We are not intending to neglect the opinion of our partners and we will cooperate with everyone,” he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday the attack by Syrian army defectors on a Damascus military intelligence base this week resembled a civil war and urged the world to pressure the opposition as well as the regime.

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