Russia Slams US Policy of One-Way Syrian Sanctions

Vladivostok/Beirut - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Saturday criticized unilateral sanctions by the United States on Syria, as well as the opposition's proposed transitional government.

While Russia and the US had similar objectives on Syria and Iran, Moscow did not support the US policy of threats and new sanctions, he said after a meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vladivostok.

The Syrian opposition's "confrontational step" on the establishment of a transitional government would not contribute to a solution, Lavrov said.

Russia, a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has with China vetoed three United Nations Security Council resolutions condemning the crackdown on protesters.

Lavrov said Russia supported the idea of a conference of opposition groups in the Syrian capital Damascus to start a dialogue with the government.

"It is necessary to stop instigating the opposition to refusal from dialogue and to armed fighting," Lavrov said. "This is exactly what our Western counterparts are doing."

Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday acknowledged that changes are necessary in Syria, but called for ensuring the security of the current leadership in any power transition process.

New international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi is expected in Egypt on Sunday for talks with Arab League officials and Syrian opposition politicians on how to end the 18-month conflict, which the opposition says has claimed more than 26,000 lives.

In Syria, rebels said Saturday they had captured a key area in the northern city of Aleppo where fighting has dragged on for more than two months.

They said they had overrun the district of Hananou in the north of Aleppo and were advancing on a major military checkpoint, a move that would secure a passageway for food and medical supplies.

Al-Assad's soldiers shelled the pro-rebel districts of al-Tadamun and al-Hajar al-Aswad, south of Damascus, opposition activists said.

At least 170 people were killed Friday across Syria, mainly in suburban Damascus and Aleppo, according to the opposition.

In Cyprus, European Union foreign ministers were resuming talks a day after chastising the UN Security Council for failing to present a united front on Syria.

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