Russia opposes the Arab League's decision to suspend Syria and believes Western nations are inciting opponents of President Bashar Assad to seek his removal, Russian news agencies quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying on Monday.

Lavrov also underlined Russia's opposition to imposing new sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program and said nations were whipping up tension over Tehran to impose additional unilateral sanctions against it, the reports said.

Meanwhile, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al Muallem discussed the League’s decision during a press conference in Damascus on Monday. According to al Muallem, the decision “crosses red lines, and runs contrary to the regulations of the Arab League.”

The foreign minister also said that despite the Arab League’s claims, Syria responded to the League’s initiative and released 500 political prisoners, and allowed 80 foreign journalists to enter the country.

Furthermore, Syria’s interior minister released a statement calling on all armed protesters to turn in their weapon in return for amnesty. However, continued the interior minister, those same “armed cells” refused, thus preventing the government from “ending the struggle.”  

European Union governments reached a preliminary agreement on Monday to extend sanctions against Syria to more individuals associated with a violent crackdown on dissent, an EU official said.

The agreement by ambassadors of the 27 EU states, was expected to be confirmed by EU foreign ministers meeting later in Brussels, who will also endorse a decision to stop Syria accessing funds from the European Investment Bank, the official said.

EU leaders warned last month that Syria could face further sanctions if there was no halt to the violence, which the United Nations says has lead to the death of more than 3,500 protesters.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said there was a good case for adding to EU sanctions, which already affect 56 individuals and 19 firms and entities.

"It's very important in the European Union that we consider additional measures to add to the pressure on the Assad regime to stop the unacceptable violence against the people of Syria," he told reporters as he entered the meeting of EU foreign ministers.
Hague welcomed efforts by the Arab League to end the crisis.

In a surprise move on Saturday, the Arab League suspended Syria's membership and called on its army to stop killing civilians and some Western leaders said this should prompt tougher international action against President Bashar Assad.

The Arab League will also impose economic and political sanctions on Damascus and has appealed to member states to withdraw their ambassadors.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she was in close contact with the Arab League to work on an approach to Syria.

"The situation in Syria causes enormous concern. I spoke last night to the secretary general of the Arab League and expressed our commitment to working closely with them," she said.

קראו כתבה זו בעברית: שר החוץ הסורי: החלטת הליגה הערבית - תכתיב אמריקאי