Russia's Lavrov seeks peace in Syria

Tue Feb 7, 2012 8:27pm GMT

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

AMMAN (Reuters) - Russia won a promise from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday to bring an end to bloodshed in Syria, but Western and Arab states acted to isolate Assad further after activists and rebels said his forces killed over 100 in the city of Homs.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, representing a rare ally on a trip to the Syrian capital that other states are shunning, said both countries wanted revive a monitoring effort by the Arab League, whose plan to resolve Syria's crisis Moscow and Beijing vetoed in the U.N. Security Council.

There was no indication from Lavrov's comments that the issue of Assad eventually giving up power - a central element of the Arab proposal that failed in the Council - had been raised.

Assad said he would cooperate with any plan that stabilised Syria, but made clear that only included an earlier Arab League proposal that called for dialogue, release of prisoners and withdrawing the army from protest centres.

Walid al-Bunni, a senior member of the opposition Syrian National Council, said Lavrov brought no new initiative and that "so-called reforms" promised by Assad were not enough. "The crimes that have been committed have left no room for Bashar al-Assad to remain ruler of Syria," he told Reuters.

Russia's mediation also failed to slow a rush by countries that denounced the Russian-Chinese veto three days ago to corner Syria diplomatically and cripple Assad with sanctions in hopes of toppling him.

Opposition activists said government forces renewed shelling of the central city of Homs on Tuesday just before Lavrov's arrival, killing some 19 people in an onslaught that they say has claimed over 300 lives in the last five days.

There were also reports from residents of shelling and fighting on Tuesday between government and rebel forces in Hama, another urban stronghold of anti-Assad sentiment.   Continued...

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (R) speaks with with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during their meeting in Damascus February 7, 2012.REUTERS/Pool
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