Russia warns of Syria terror threat

Last Updated: Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 00:06

Moscow: Russia on Wednesday warned that "terrorist
organisations" could arise in Syria if President Bashar
al-Assad`s regime fell under pressure from ongoing street
protests.

The comments marked the latest salvo in a heated war of
words between Russia and the West over its traditional
regional ally -- a country listed as a state sponsor of
terrorism by the United States.

The foreign ministry`s new challenges and threats
department chief Ilya Rogachyov said Western military
intervention was threatening to create new hotbeds of
extremist activity in a region already shaken by war in Iraq.

"If the Syrian government is unable to hold on to power,
there is a high probability that radicals and representatives
of terrorist organisations will become entrenched," the
Interfax news agency quoted the top foreign ministry official
as saying.

Russia has been attracting increasing international anger
over its continued support for Syria despite a government
crackdown on protests that the United Nations estimates to
have killed around 2,600 people.

Moscow has refused to support Western sanctions against
Assad`s regime and argued that equal pressure should also be
placed on the protesters who refuse to engage Assad in direct
talks.

President Dmitry Medvedev last week also said that some
of those taking part in the Syrian demonstration had links to
"terrorists".
Russia intends to send a group of senators to Syria in
the coming days to come with its own ground report and has
previously vowed to continue supplying arms to Assad`s
government.

The standoff highlights growing tensions that began
nearly a decade ago when US-led forces invaded Iraq and
escalated further with this year`s NATO-led campaign in Libya.

Moscow enjoyed wide authority in the region in the Soviet
era and has watched with increasing alarm as Western pressure
and a public frustration helped push veteran regional leaders
from power.

Rogachyov cautioned that it was premature to say whether
new governments such as the one being set up in Libya would be
able to survive and ensure security and peace.

"Strange things are happening in Libya," Interfax quoted
Rogachyov as saying during a lecture in Russia`s second city
of Saint Petersburg.

"Weapons storages have been burgled and no one knows what
happened," he said. "We can say with a high degree of
probability that the weapons fell into the hands of the
regional department of al Qaeda."

Bureau Report



First Published: Thursday, September 15, 2011 - 00:06

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