The Straits Times
Published on Jan 28, 2013

Russia says Assad blundered as regime courts opposition


DAMASCUS (AFP) - Russia's prime minister on Sunday said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had made a "grave, perhaps fatal error" by delaying political reforms, as Damascus courted opposition forces.

"He should have acted much more quickly and reached out to the peaceful opposition which was ready to sit at the negotiating table with him," Russian news agencies quoted Dmitri Medvedev as saying.

"It's a grave error on his part, perhaps fatal," he said, in a rare criticism of Mr Assad by Syria's traditional ally Moscow. "It seems to me that his chances of staying (in power) are shrinking day by day," Mr Medvedev said in remarks to CNN television on the sidelines of the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

Syria's high judicial council, meanwhile, announced a suspension of prosecutions of opposition members so they can join a national dialogue, state media reported.