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Russia Blames 'Both Sides' for Syria Massacre

Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (l) and his British counterpart William Hague walk to a press conference after their meeting in Moscow, May 28, 2012 (AP).
MOSCOW - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is blaming both sides in Syria's conflict for civilian deaths that have drawn international condemnation.

Following talks with his British counterpart, Lavrov said both the rebels and the Syrian government were responsible for the massacre of more than 100 civilians in the town of Houla on Friday.

He downplayed what has been Russian support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

He says that for Russia, it is completely unimportant who is in power in Syria. He says the most important thing for Russia is to support, above all else, an end to the violence, an end to the deaths of people who are mostly civilians, and to support political dialogue where the Syrians themselves decide the destiny of their country.

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague, however, blamed Syria’s government for the Houla deaths, which included many children.

"It is part of the pattern of behavior of the Assad regime, I believe, to commit atrocities and then to try to blame those atrocities on other people," said Hague. "So we must always have our eyes open to that, difficult as it will be, to determine what has happened in any individual incident."

But Lavrov says guilt for the attacks "should be determined objectively."

Both Russia and Britain say more should be done to implement United Nations Special Envoy Kofi Annan’s peace plan that calls for a cessation of violence from both sides.

"If we all honestly want to help fulfill the Kofi Annan plan, we need to push all players inside Syria, without exception, who are standing with weapons in their hands facing each other," said Lavrov.

Lavrov added that nothing will come of conditions that demand regime change. But he said "We do not support the Syrian government, we support Kofi Annan's plan."

Hague said the Annan peace plan is the only way to resolve the conflict.

"The alternatives in Syria are the Annan plan or the Assad regime retaking control of the country," he said. "The alternatives are the Annan plan or ever-increasing chaos in Syria and a descent closer and closer to all-out civil war and collapse."

Annan’s six-week old initiative has failed to stop the violence. Meanwhile, the United Nations is nearing full deployment of a 300-member unarmed observer force to monitor compliance. Annan is expected to meet with the Syrian president on Tuesday.