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Lavrov To RT: The Biggest Threat Is Rebels Taking Control Of Chemical Weapons In Syria

MOSCOW, Dec. 24, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov discusses Syria, NATO, and Russian-American relations in an exclusive interview with RT.

RT: Russia is permanently blocking attempts of some of UN Security Council members to pass a resolution that would allow a foreign intervention to Syria. But do you think a military action could still take place going around the UN like it happened in the case of Iraq?
Sergey Lavrov: Yes, it is possible, but I also feel that those who would like to interfere in the Syrian crisis don't want to do this without some kind of legitimacy. But the [UN] Charter ... says the Security Council is engaged in matters related to international peace and security, not to supporting one party in an internal conflict. And that's what is going on in Syria. Some people would like very much to internationalize this situation and to expand violence beyond the Syrian borders; attempts are being made, especially in cases when the refugees have to flee Syria because of the disproportionate actions by the government forces. But on the other side, several armed groups of the opposition...also resort to unacceptable methods absolutely contrary to international humanitarian law: taking hostages, staging terrorist attacks. And it is very disheartening that our Western colleagues in the Security Council started to refuse condemning terrorist attacks in Syria saying that yes, terrorism is bad but you must take into account the overall context of what is going on in Syria and why people resort to terrorist attacks. It's absolutely unacceptable.

RT: One more reason that arises time to time that could actually okay the foreign intervention is Syria's possession of chemical weapons. Do you believe that Syrian will use chemical weapons, or is this another pretext for an invasion?
SL: I don't believe Syria would use chemical weapons. It would be a political suicide for the government if it does. Our information is, which correlates with the information the Americans have, as I understand, that the latest reports about some movement of the chemical weapons were related to the steps undertaken by the government to concentrate the chemical stuff which has been dispersed in various locations into two sites, to make sure that it is absolutely protected. And it is also accepted by everyone including our Western colleagues that the biggest threat in this situation is the probability that the rebels might take hold of chemical weapons...We are not justifying what the government is doing, they have been making a lot of mistakes, have been using force disproportionately; the security forces clearly were, and are, unprepared to face the public protests and armed protests in the cities and in the villages. They've been trained to counter a foreign aggression, not to keep law and order in a civilised manner.  But the opposition is provoking the government, as I said – resorting to terrorist attacks, taking hostages, and also introducing into this conflict the sectarian dimension which is very dangerous.

RT: Do you think that if Russia has handled it differently from the very beginning, let's say, a year ago convinced Assad to step down, then things would be different in Syria?
SL: We are not in the business of regime change. Some of the regional players were suggesting to us: "Why don't you tell President Assad to leave? We will arrange for some safe haven for him." My answer is very simple – if indeed those who suggested this to us have this in mind, they should take it directly to president Assad. Why shall they use us as a postman? If President Assad is interested – this must be discussed directly with him...Our priority number one is not somebody's head. It's the cessation of violence and of the bloodshed. And the fate of Assad must be decided by the Syrian people, not by the outsiders and by part of the Syrian opposition.  

RT: Syria is not the only issue between America and Russia. The first thing Obama did when he got re-elected was sign the so-called Magnitsky Act, which would sanction Russian citizens and some Russian officials. What does it tell you about the state of Russia-US relations with Putin and Obama at the helm?
SL: When Senator Cardin and others introduced this idea, it was clearly done to create a Catch 22 for the administration, because the administration was promoting a repeal of the Jackson-Vanick amendment with the support of quite a number of people on the Hill. And it was absolutely obvious that the Americans want it, because with Russia having acceded to the WTO, keeping Jackson-Vanick would mean depriving American companies of the benefits of the Russian Federation's membership in the WTO.

RT: As an answer to the Magnitsky law, Russian parliament is right now discussing the law that would ban Russian children adoption for the US citizens. Many have criticized this law and said that it is somewhat inadequate and disproportional, and were saying that bringing orphan children into politics is not exactly correct. You have also spoken against this draft law. Why?
SL: The number of cases which have been made public of maltreatment of the Russian kids is not so arithmetically huge - it's nineteen. And those who criticize our position say that dozens of thousands of kids have been adopted and absolute majority of them are happy, and I agree with this. But I can't accept when people say "why do you raise hell about nineteen cases only". Any situation in which a Russian kid was humiliated, maltreated, not to mention murdered or raped – this must be approached very firmly, I would even say aggressively, to establish the channels which would allow us to influence the situation...So while understanding the position in favor of prohibiting the adoption of the Russian kids by the American families, I still believe that we have to try to keep the agreement [on cooperation in the field of adoption].

Watch the complete interview at -

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Anna Belkina at [email protected]
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