Russia’s Putin Defies West on Syria

Posted September 6th, 2012 at 6:35 am (UTC-5)
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Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow is not ready to shift its stance on supporting the Syrian government, and suggested Western nations were using militant groups such as al-Qaida to help drive Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power.

Speaking on Russia Today televison, Mr. Putin questioned why Russia should be the only one reassessing its position. He said “Perhaps our negotiating partners should re-evaluate their position.”

The Russian leader was asked whether Moscow should rethink its views on Syria after vetoing three Western-backed U.N. Security Council resolutions designed to pressure Mr. Assad to end violence that has killed 20,000 people.

Without naming any country, he said Western nations looking to oust Mr. Assad are backing militants to help topple him. He called it a “very dangerous and shortsighted policy.”

Meanwhile, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA Mr. Assad's forces have recaptured from rebels a town on the border with Jordan used as a transit point by refugees fleeing the country's civil war.

The watchdog group said hundreds of Syrian soldiers backed by tanks assaulted Tel Chehab early Thursday. Scores were arrested and rebel safehouses set ablaze.

Activists said about 2,000 refugees were in Tel Chehab when it was captured.

The Observatory also said two kidnapped brothers of a Syrian rebel commander were killed on Thursday, as battles raged between rebels and army forces in several districts of Damascus.

The men were kidnapped Wednesday night at an army checkpoint. They were found dead in the southern district of Qadam in the capital amid a sharp increase in reports of abductions across the country.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon sharply criticized the Security Council for what he called its “paralysis” on Syria.

He told the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday that a lack of decisive action harms the Syrian people and damages the credibility of the council.

On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi told visiting U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that his country supported a political transition in Syria. But he repeated China's opposition to foreign intervention.