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Russia ‘to oppose use of force against Syria’

Dmitry Medvedev says Russia will not support the use of force in the Syrian conflict  [AFP]

President Medvedev comes out against any UN move to authorise use of force, saying Syria must settle own affairs.

Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, has said Russia will not support any United Nations resolutions on the use of force against the Syrian government.

"As for a resolution on Syria, I will not support such a resolution even if my friends and acquaintances ask me about it," Medvedev told reporters during a rare news conference on Wednesday, arguing Syria must be allowed to settle its domestic affairs.


He did not specify what he meant, adding that such resolutions were open to interpretation.

In March, Medvedev ordered Russia to abstain from the UN Security Council resolution on Libya that essentially authorised military action.

He later accused the West of exceeding the UN’s mandate and of becoming entangled in a military operation in Libya.

Last month, Moscow clashed with the Western powers at the UN when it blocked a proposed Security Council statement condemning the Syrian government’s brutal crackdown on opposition protests.

Swiss sanctions

His comments came as Switzerland announced new sanctions against Syria on Wednesday, saying that it was following the European Union's lead in imposing an embargo on arms and equipment used for internal repression.

"The new edict on measures against Syria includes an embargo on military assets and equipment that could be used for internal repression," the Swiss economic ministry said in a statement.

"It also includes financial sanctions and travel restrictions on 13 people from the Damascus regime," it added.

The ministry said that through the new sanctions, "Switzerland is joining sanctions announced on May 9, 2011 by the European Union against Syria."


"These restrictive measures were decreed due to the violent repression that the Syrian army and security forces have exerted over about two months to suppress the peaceful demonstrations of the population."

EU heavyweight Germany, meanwhile, is pushing for further sanctions against Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president.

"Our demands are clear. Violence and repression against peaceful demonstrators must be stopped immediately," Guido Westerwelle, Germany’s foreign minister, said. 

"Germany supports a tightening of sanctions. In our opinion it is needed and unavoidable that also President Assad is included in the next round of sanctions. He must also held to responsibility through sanctions."

The United States and European Union, which have slapped sanctions on members of Assad's inner circle, had warned on Tuesday that further measures were being considered against the regime.

But Syrian authorities so far have appeared impervious to outside pressure. Assad's authoritarian government has sought to crush the greatest challenge to nearly five decades of rule with a brutal crackdown that has 
left more than 850 people dead and at least 8,000 arrested, according to rights groups.

Some of those released have said they were tortured and others have been forced to sign pledges not to take part in further protests.

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