29 May 2012

Rebels also to blame for massacre in Syria - Russia

10:44 pm on 29 May 2012

Russia says rebels in Syria are partly responsible for the massacre of more than 100 people in the Houla region on Friday.

The United Nations has condemned the killings, saying government artillery was involved.

UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan has arrived in Damascus for talks on implementing his peace plan, called on "every individual with a gun" to lay down their arms, the BBC reports.

Meanwhile, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said both sides evidently had a hand in the deaths of innocent people in Houla. But he said his country supports Mr Annan's peace plan.

''We are dealing with a situation in which both sides evidently had a hand in the deaths of innocent people,'' said Mr Lavrov.

''There is no doubt that the government used artillery and tanks and this has been reported by UN observers who have visited the scene.

''There is also no doubt that many bodies have been found with injuries from firearms received at point-blank range. So the blame must be determined objectively.''

Asked if President Bashar al-Assad could be part of the solution in Syria, Mr Lavrov said that ending the violence was more important than who was in power.

The Syrian government insists the killings were carried out by "terrorists".

Russia is the Syrian government's only major foreign ally.

The UN has confirmed 49 children and 34 women were among Friday's dead.

Mr Annan arrived in Damascus on Monday and will hold talks with President Assad on Tuesday.

Under his plan, both sides were to stop fighting on 12 April ahead of the deployment of monitors, while the government was to withdraw tanks and forces from civilian areas.