Russia says backing Syrian rebels deepens strife

By the Associated Press | September 28, 2012 | 6:35 PM EDT

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The Russian foreign minister lashed out Friday at countries that are backing opposition groups fighting the dictatorship of Syria's Bashar Assad, saying that was "pushing Syria even deeper into internecine strife."

Sergei Lavrov, the top Russian diplomat, told the U.N. General Assembly that the fighting in Syria, which has killed more than 30,000 people, must end through a comprehensive cease-fire, release of prisoners and humanitarian aid. He said Russia backs the efforts of special U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to end the fighting. He said the number of war crimes is growing both by the Assad regime and the opposition fighters.

"Russia resolutely condemns any violence, wherever it comes from, and is convinced that there is still an opportunity to undertake collective actions," he said. "Practical steps to overcome the crisis need to begin with a comprehensive ceasefire, release of prisoners and hostages and supply of additional humanitarian aid. This will create conditions to start an inter-Syrian dialogue."

Russia, Syria's primary backer, and China have blocked three attempts by Western governments to pass Security Council resolutions that would impose sanctions on the Assad regime.

Lavrov said that extremist organizations including Al-Qaeda have become more active in Syria, where they've launched terrorist attacks against civilians and public infrastructure.

Any sanctions imposed by the Security Council must not harm the populations of targeted countries, Lavrov said in a call for humanitarian limits on sanctions.

Lavrov also decried unilateral sanctions that bypass the Security Council, where Russia holds veto power.

"For many years, the trade and economic, and financial restrictions imposed by the United States against Cuba have remained an illustration of negative impact of unilateral sanctions," he said. "Russia, together with the overwhelming majority of members of the international community, calls for an earliest lift of this blockade, as a relic of the Cold War."

Lavrov condemned violence in the Muslim world sparked by an American-made anti-Islam film.

"We believe it is an obligation of all states to protect from provocations and blasphemy the religious feelings of people of any religious affiliation," he said. "At the same time, there can be no justification to the acts of terror, regardless of where they are committed - be it in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen or anywhere else. Attacks against diplomats or UN personnel are absolutely unacceptable."