Russia warns West over Syria

Russia warned the West on Tuesday against unilateral action on Syria.

The head of a UN mission warned of "civil war" in Syria after his observers counted more than 92 bodies, 32 of them children on 26 May, 2012. Picture: AFP.

BEIRUT - Russia warned the West on Tuesday against unilateral action on Syria, a day after United States (US) President Barack Obama threatened "enormous consequences" if his Syrian counterpart used chemical or biological arms or even moved them in a menacing way.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, speaking after meeting China's top diplomat, said Moscow and Beijing were committed to "the need to strictly adhere to the norms of international law ... and not to allow their violation".

The remarks were a reminder of the divisions hampering efforts to end the 17-month old conflict that increasingly sets a mainly Sunni Muslim opposition against President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite minority.

The United Nations (UN) says more than 18,000 people have been killed in a war which is affecting neighbouring states.

In Lebanon, at least five people were killed in sectarian violence linked to the Syria conflict, and Turkey, an opponent of Assad, investigated possible Syrian involvement in a car bomb that killed nine people on Monday.

Russia and China have opposed military intervention in Syria throughout the revolt. They have vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions backed by Western and Arab states that would have put more pressure on Damascus to end the violence.

After meeting Lavrov in Moscow, Syrian Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil said Obama's talk of action against Syria was media fodder.

He said the West was seeking an excuse to intervene, likening the focus on Syria's chemical weapons with the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq by US-led forces and the focus on what proved to be groundless suspicions that Saddam Hussein was concealing weapons of mass destruction.

"Direct military intervention in Syria is impossible because whoever thinks about it ... is heading towards a confrontation wider than Syria's borders," he told a news conference.

In one of the latest battle zones, troops and tanks overran the Damascus suburb of Mouadamiya on Tuesday, the second day of an offensive to regain control of the area.

Activists said Assad's forces had killed at least 70 people in Mouadamiya since Monday. They included some two dozen men who had been executed and 16 people killed in a helicopter gunship attack on a funeral for victims of Monday's violence.

"The mourners set off with 19 bodies and came back with 35," Hayat, one of the activists said from the suburb.

Another resident, speaking to Reuters by telephone, said he had counted the bodies of some two dozen men who had been executed. "They were not killed by bombardment, their hands were tied and they were burnt and killed by knives," he said. Bodies were found in basements and looted premises, activists said.

State-imposed curbs on media made it impossible to verify the reports of the violence, which followed another bloody day on Monday, when about 200 people were killed across the country, according to the opposition Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.