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Russia offers to back Annan's Syria plan at UN

Russia offers to back Annan's Syria plan at UN

March 21st, 2012 in News

MOSCOW (AP) - Russia said Tuesday it's ready to support a United Nations resolution endorsing Kofi Annan's plan for settling the Syrian crisis, signaling it is prepared to raise the pressure on its old ally.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that the resolution shouldn't turn into an ultimatum to the Syrian government, setting the stage for tough bargaining over the wording of the document at the U.N. Security Council.

But Lavrov appeared to indicate Russia's growing impatience with Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose government he said made "many mistakes" that led to a worsening of the conflict.

Russia and China have twice shielded Assad's regime from U.N. sanctions over its yearlong crackdown on protesters, in which more than 8,000 people have died. But the Kremlin has also offered strong support to Annan, the former United Nations secretary general who is the joint U.N. and Arab League special envoy.

Annan met twice with Assad earlier this month and made proposals to end the bloodshed, which haven't yet been made public.

Lavrov said Annan's proposals should now be unveiled, adding Moscow stands ready to back a U.N. Security Council resolution supporting them.

"The Security Council should support them, not as an ultimatum but as a basis for the continuing efforts by Kofi Annan aimed at reaching accord among all Syrians, the government and all opposition groups on all key issues, such as humanitarian corridors, halting hostilities by all parties, the beginning of a political dialogue and offering access to the media," Lavrov said at a news conference following talks in Moscow with his Lebanese counterpart.

Syrian forces take eastern city

BEIRUT (AP) - Syrian soldiers backed by tanks seized the eastern city of Deir el-Zour from rebels on Tuesday, the latest opposition stronghold to fall to an offensive by the better equipped Syrian military.

Activist Osama Mansour said government troops and armored cars entered the city about 60 miles from the Iraqi border from four sides, sparking short gunbattles with fighters from the Free Syrian Army.

Mansour, reached by telephone in Deir el-Zour, said the rebels quit fighting and took shelter in homes and apartments, fearing protracted clashes would destroy the city.