Syria troops raid villages as Russia boosts regime

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian troops mounted deadly new raids against dissent Monday as President Bashar Assad’s embattled regime won key support from longtime ally Russia, which said a U.N. resolution on Syria must not contain sanctions.

The U.N. said Monday that the death toll has reached at least 2,600 from the government’s violent crackdown on protests over the past six months.

Although the crackdown has brought widespread international condemnation, Assad’s authoritarian regime has the support of Russia and China, permanent members of the United Nations Security Council with veto powers.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Monday that Moscow believes any U.N. resolution on Syria must be aimed at both the government and the opposition.

“Russia proceeds from the assumption that it’s necessary to approve a resolution on Syria that will be tough, but well balanced at the same time that would address both parties to the conflict — President Bashar Assad’s government and the opposition,” Medvedev said. “Only in that case could it be successful.”

“The resolution must be tough, but it mustn’t automatically involve sanctions,” he said.

The raids around the central city of Hama began after security forces cut all roads leading to the area along with electricity and telephone lines.

At least 2,600 people have died in the six months of unrest that has swept Syria.

top human rights official said Monday, as a panel was named to investigate abuses in the Arab country.

The figure released by U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay adds to evidence that Syrian leader Bashar Assad is continuing his crackdown on anti-government dissidents despite international pressure.

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