|Russia says ‘Friends of Syria’ encourage extremists||
Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said rebel attempts to topple Assad would inevitably cause suffering among civilians in Syria, where more than 70,000 people have been killed in a nearly two-year-old foreign-sponsored insurgency.
"Decisions taken in Rome, as well as declarations voiced there, in letter and spirit directly encourage extremists to (seek) the seizure of power by force," he said in a statement.
After the "Friends of Syria" meeting on Thursday, the United States said it would give non-lethal aid directly to rebels for the first time and would more than double its support to Syria's civilian opposition, but Western powers did not offer weapons.
Russia says it is not propping up Assad but has shielded him by blocking UN Security Council resolutions aimed to put pressure on him to end bloodshed and by insisting that his exit from power must not be a precondition for a negotiated solution.
On Thursday, President Vladimir Putin cautiously welcomed French President Francois Hollande's proposal that dialogue on Syria be broadened to bring in parties that could act as negotiators between Assad and opposition rebels.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011. Damascus says outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorists are the driving factor behind the unrest and deadly violence while the opposition accuses the security forces of being behind the killings.
Western states have been calling for Assad to step down. However, Russia and China are strongly opposed to the Western drive to oust Assad.
The Syrian government says that the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the armed militants are foreign nationals, mostly from Egypt, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia.
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