Russia calls on Syria to investigate deaths

MOSCOW Thu Apr 28, 2011 12:17pm EDT

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia urged Syria Thursday to punish those responsible for deadly violence during a crackdown on anti-government protests but said an international investigation sought by the United States was not necessary.

The U.N. Human Rights Council will hold an emergency session on Syria Friday at Washington's request and is due to consider a draft resolution submitted by the U.S. delegation.

A close vote was expected on the text in the 47-member forum, with China and Cuba expected to join Russia in opposing the resolution, western diplomats in Geneva said Wednesday.

Russia said Syrian authorities should investigate and bring those responsible for deadly violence to justice but indicated it could carry out an investigation on its own.

"The processes occurring in Syria, as in other countries in the Middle East region, should be resolved within the internal political environment ... without interference from outside," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexei Sazonov told reporters.

Russia, whose government has faced criticism from the United States and other nations over its treatment of opponents and its human rights record, also took a swipe at the U.S. proposal.

"Russia considers attempts to politicize the work of leading rights protection organs, including the Human Rights Council, to be counterproductive," the ministry said in a statement.

"We will consistently be guided by this approach in the framework of preparation for the special session and discussion of the resolution introduced by the U.S. delegation," it said.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is facing international condemnation after using troops and tanks to put down protests against his 11-year rule. Human rights groups say the crackdown has left hundreds of people dead.

Russia, which has bridled at Western intervention in conflicts in Libya and Ivory Coast, has expressed concern about the violence in Syria. But it has said protesters are also responsible and warned against foreign involvement.

Resistance from Russia helped to block a European push, backed by the United States, to secure a U.N. Security Council statement condemning Syria's crackdown Wednesday.

The ministry statement about the U.N. Human Rights Council meeting said "the fact that violence in ... Syria is also being committed from the side of the protesters must not be ignored."

(Editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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