Moscow: Russia's foreign minister encouraged Syria to cooperate fully with the United Nations investigation into the killing of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri and said Moscow sees no reason for sanctions against Damascus, according to an interview published on Monday.
Sergey Lavrov was quoted by the daily Vremya Novostei as saying he would discuss the UN inquiry with his Syrian counterpart, Walid Mua'alem, who arrived on Sunday on a three-day visit to Moscow.
"The probe is going on, and Syria is cooperating with that," Lavrov said. "We will encourage it to fully cooperate, and we don't see any reason for sanctions." The UN Security Council has twice accused Syria of failing to cooperate fully with the investigation, which has implicated Syrian intelligence officials.
The new head of the inquiry, Serge Brammertz, is to issue his first report to the UN Security Council later this week.
Russia has opposed sanctions against its Soviet-era ally Syria but strongly urged Damascus to cooperate with the UN investigators.
The top UN envoy for Syria and Lebanon, Terje Roed-Larsen, was also expected to be in Moscow for talks at the same time as the Syrian foreign minister, the ITAR-Tass news agency said.
Syria's official news agency Sana quoted Mua'alem on his arrival in Moscow as saying that the "situation in the Middle East is now very complicated thanks to US policies in the region and the continuation of Israeli occupation of Arab lands."
Arrest at airport
Rights activist detained on arrival from abroad
A human rights activist has been arrested on his return home from two opposition and rights conferences he attended in Washington and Paris, his family said yesterday.
Ammar Qurabi of the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in Syria was arrested on Sunday at Damascus airport upon his return from Paris, according to a statement issued by his family and e-mailed to foreign news agencies in the Syrian capital. The statement said Qurabi "did not do anything that deserves punishment" and urged international human rights organisations to press for his release.
The Arab Organisation for Human Rights in Syria, meanwhile, issued a separate statement in which it condemned Qurabi's "arbitrary" arrest and called on the government to immediately release him. Arrests of human rights and pro-democracy activists in Syria is common.