* SCO member states oppose military interference in Syria
* U.N. envoy Kofi Annan to brief Security Council later
* Member states say Iran nuclear problem should not be
resolved by force
By Gleb Bryanski and Chris Buckley
BEIJING, June 7 Leaders of a bloc grouping
China, Russia and Central Asian states called on Thursday for
dialogue to address the violence in Syria, all but guaranteeing
that there will be no end to the deadlock in discussions at the
U.N. Security Council.
Russia and China - permanent members of the U.N. Security
Council with the power to veto resolutions - have stymied
efforts by Western powers to condemn or call for the removal of
President Bashar al-Assad, whose forces, the U.N. says, have
killed at least 10,000 people in more than a year of unrest.
Troops and militiamen loyal to Assad were accused by
opponents on Thursday of the massacre of at least 78 people at
Mazraat al-Qabeer, near Hama, following the killing of 108
people, mostly women and children, in Houla last month.
"The Shanghai group member states are against military
interference in the affairs of this region (Middle East and
North Africa), enforced 'handover of power', unilateral
sanctions," a joint statement from leaders of the Shanghai
Cooperation Organisation (SCO) said.
"Member states stress the need to stop any violence on the
territory of Syria wherever it is coming from, they respect
broad nationwide dialogue, based on independence, territorial
integrity and sovereignty of Syria."
U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, the former U.N.
secretary-general, is to brief the Security Council in New York
on Thursday. U.N. diplomats said they expected Annan to present
a new proposal to rescue his failing peace plan by creating a
"contact group" of world and regional powers.
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping repeatedly
stressed that Beijing and Moscow both oppose what he called
"neo-interventionism" in Syria and other countries.
Cheng told reporters that, despite the Houla deaths, "we
still believe that this is an internal matter for Syria". He did
not refer to the latest massacre accusations.
China and Russia agreed that "the Syrian issue should be
resolved based on envoy Annan's six-point proposal within the
U.N. framework", Cheng said.
"You can't say that because you dislike a country's system,
you can then think of ways to overturn its government," he said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told a briefing China
"has a positive attitude towards any efforts to ameliorate the
situation in Syria" when asked about Russia's plan for an
expanded meeting on Syria, including Iran.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov floated the idea on
Wednesday in what could be the first step towards the creation
of Annan's contact group.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, however, reacted
coolly to including Iran, which she said was "stage-managing"
the Syrian government assault.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese
counterpart, Hu Jintao, have urged international support for
Annan's peace plan, despite calls from Arab and Western states
for a tougher response.
IRAN AND AFGHANISTAN
The joint statement was issued on the last day of the
two-day annual summit of the SCO, made up of China, Russia,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Iran, India,
Pakistan and others attend the summits, but not as full members.
The six leaders also warned that "any attempts to solve the
Iranian problem by force are not acceptable and lead to
unpredictable consequences, threatening stability and security
in the region and in the world as a whole".
Iran is at the centre of a standoff over its disputed
nuclear programme, which the West suspects is aimed at
developing nuclear weapons. Iran says its aim is the peaceful
production of electricity.
The SCO leaders called for settling "the Iran nuclear
problem through political and diplomatic means".
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told Iranian President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad on Wednesday that China opposed any Middle East
country acquiring nuclear weapons, state news agency Xinhua
China and Iran have close energy and trade ties, and Beijing
has repeatedly resisted U.S.-led demands to impose tougher
economic sanctions on Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions.
The joint statement also said "the national reconciliation
in Afghanistan should happen under the leadership of Afghans and
by Afghans themselves".
Hu said in an interview with state media on Wednesday that
the SCO wants to play a bigger role in Afghanistan. The future
of Afghanistan, struggling to end a Taliban-led insurgency
despite the presence of NATO-led forces for more than a decade,
was one of the meeting's main issues.
Cheng said China was not looking to fill the security gap
left when most foreign combat troops leave by the end of 2014.