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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Syria has done nothing to deserve sanctions: Russian FM

Syria has done nothing to deserve international sanctions as it has cooperated with a UN probe into the killing of Lebanon's former premier Rafiq Hariri, Russia's foreign minister has said in an interview.

"Frankly, I do not see what Syria could have done to deserve facing sanctions," Sergei Lavrov told the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat on Tuesday.

"We believe that Syria is actively cooperating with the UN investigation in the (February 2005) assassination of Lebanon's former PM Rafiq Hariri. International investigators visit Syria frequently, meet Syrian officials and present their reports to the UN security council," he said.

"I have not heard any accusation of default against Syria," in this regard, he told the London-based Arabic daily.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said late September the United States was hoping to convince its allies to back new sanctions against Syria in response to its purported role in destabilising Lebanon and Iraq and supporting the radical Palestinian movement Hamas.

Lavrov also praised Syria for avoiding turning the July war between Lebanon's Hezbollah and Israel into a regional conflict.

"Thank God that war did not turn into an all-out regional war ... That did not happen because the Syrian leadership took a very responsible stand and avoided all that could have dragged Syria into the furnace of the military conflict," the minister said.

Syria earned rare praise from US President George W. Bush's administration for thwarting an attack on its embassy in Damascus on September 12.

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