Medvedev: Assad must reform or go

Moscow - President Dmitry Medvedev told Syria's strongman leader Bashar al-Assad on Friday to either reform or resign while warning that Russia would resist outside attempts to force him from power.

Medvedev said three days after Russia and China sparked global outrage by jointly vetoing a US resolution on Syria that he wanted to see an end to the violent crackdown on protesters as much as Europe and the US.

"Russia wants as much as the other countries for Syria to end the bloodshed and demands that the Syrian leadership conduct the necessary reforms," Medvedev said in televised remarks.

"If the Syrian leadership is unable to undertake these reforms, it will have to go. But this is something that has to be decided not by Nato or individual European countries but by the people and the leadership of Syria," he said.

Russia vetoed the UN Security Council sanctions resolution against its Soviet-era ally on Tuesday after arguing that moves aimed against the Syrian leadership could encourage protesters to resort to violence.

Medvedev said his most recent decision on Syria was also influenced by the Nato-led campaign in Libya that Russia opposed but refused to block at the Security Council in March.

Russia had criticised the Libya campaign as illegitimate and Medvedev warned on Friday that he would continue resisting all actions he thought were aimed at toppling governments that were on bad terms with the West.

"Russia will continue standing against attempts to legitimise through the UN Security Council unilateral sanctions aimed at toppling various regimes," he said.
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