Putin reaffirms Russia’s support for Syria’s Assad

Putin also said he hoped Iran and world powers would reach a final agreement soon on Tehran’s nuclear program

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President Vladimir Putin reaffirmed Russia’s support for Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad on Friday and said he opposed external interference to try to end the conflict there.

Speaking at an economic conference in the city of St Petersburg, Putin also said Russia was concerned that fighting could worsen in Syria and come to resemble the conflict in Libya.

Putin also said he hoped Iran and world powers would reach a final agreement soon on Tehran’s nuclear program.

Russia ‘open to world’

The Russian president said his country was open to the world and would cooperate with the West despite persistent tensions over the Ukraine crisis.

“Russia is open to the world,” the Russian president told foreign and Russian investors.

“Our active cooperation with new centers of global growth in no case means that we intend to pay less attention to our dialogue with our traditional Western partners,” he told the country's main economic forum.

Putin pointedly ignored the tensions with the West, seeking instead to tout his government’s successes.

“I would like to focus our attention on economic issues,” Putin said with a smile, noting that a deep crisis many had predicted “had not happened.”

“We have stabilized the situation,” he said. “We have a stable budget. Our financial and banking systems have adapted to new conditions.”

Putin made no major policy announcements, while repeating his often-reiterated pledge to improve Russia’s battered investment climate.

Moscow has been locked in a confrontation with the West over Ukraine for the past year.

The economic forum got off to a rocky start Thursday amid a new spike in tensions with Brussels, with Russia seeing its state assets in France and Belgium frozen in a row over compensation for shareholders of defunct oil giant Yukos.

Russian officials reacted by saying Moscow was preparing a “judicial response” to the measure, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggesting the freeze was timed to coincide with the economic forum.

(With Reuters and AFP)

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