Russia criticizes giving Arab summit seat to Syrian opposition

MOSCOW Wed Mar 27, 2013 8:58am EDT

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia criticized the Arab League on Wednesday for giving a seat formerly held by Syria's government to a representative of the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad at a summit in Doha.

Opposition leader Moaz Alkhatib took Syria's vacant seat on Tuesday at the Arab summit, which also lent its support to giving military aid to the rebels fighting to oust Assad.

"In Doha, another anti-Syria step was taken," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"Developments at the Arab League summit in Doha and decisions taken there, regardless of objections by some member states, cause bewilderment to say the least."

Russia is Assad's most powerful ally and a long-time arms supplier to his government. It has blocked three U.N. Security Council resolutions that would mount pressure on Assad to end the violence that killed more than 70,000 people in two years.

"In fact this is about openly encouraging those powers that unfortunately continue to bet on a military solution in Syria," the ministry said.

Decisions taken in Doha contravened international law and were therefore invalid, it added.

(Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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