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Russia criticizes ‘hysteria’ over Syria veto; defectors form higher military council

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Russia Monday condemned as hysterical the angry Western reaction to its veto of a U.N. resolution condemning Syria’s crackdown on protestors, as its top diplomat prepared for a mission to Damascus as Syrian army defectors announced the formation of a higher military council to “liberate” the country from President Bashar al-Assad's rule

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed frustration that Western states did not postpone Saturday’s U.N. Security Council vote until after his visit Tuesday to Damascus, where he will deliver a message to President Bashar al-Assad.

“Some comments from the West on the UN Security Council vote, I would say, are indecent and bordering on hysteria,” Lavrov told reporters in Moscow after a meeting with Bahraini counterpart Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa.

“Such hysterical comments are aimed at suppressing what is actually happening and what has happened,” said Lavrov, according to AFP.

“It reminds me of the proverb: ‘he who gets angry is rarely right’,” he added.

Lavrov reaffirmed Russia’s position that the resolution was wrong to blame Assad’s regime for the violence and should have also taken aim at the opposition.

“In Syria there is more than one source of violence. There are several there,” he said.

Russian news agency ITAR-TASS said that alongside the head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Agency (SVR) Mikhail Fradkov, Lavrov would deliver a message from President Dmitry Medvedev to Assad.

But Lavrov would not divulge the purpose of the mission.

“When you go on a mission on the order of the head of state then the purpose of the mission is usually only revealed to the person it is addressed to. If I tell you everything now then what is the point?”

“You can talk to people just through the media. And some countries prefer to do things this way. But foreign policy demands a more classical approach.”

Lavrov regretted that Western powers had not postponed the vote, saying that Moscow had asked for a delay of a few days so that the outcome of his visit to Syria could be discussed.

“The co-authors of the resolution over-hastily decided to put it to a vote,” he said.

Meanwhile, Syrian army defectors announced on Monday the formation of a higher military council to “liberate” the country from President Assad’s rule.

The council, named “The Higher Revolutionary Council” and designed to supersede the Free Syrian Army (FSA), said its head was General Mustafa Ahmed al-Sheikh, the highest ranking deserter who had fled to Turkey. The council’s spokesman is Major Maher al-Naimi, previously the FSA spokesman, according to a statement sent to Reuters.

The announcement of the council's formation came hours after Assad’s forces launched the heaviest bombardment to subdue the rebel city of Homs in the 11 month revolt.

Syrian authorities on Monday said armed “terrorist gangs” were behind the latest violence in Homs, where activists accused government forces of launching a fierce assault on the flashpoint city.

State television said the alleged gangs been planting bombs which exploded while they were being primed, killing many of the “terrorists”.

The opposition accused the government of launching a fierce assault on Homs, with scores of civilians killed and wounded in heavy shelling.

The television said one explosion occurred in the Khaldiyeh neighborhood of Homs while two bombs went off in Dablan neighborhood.

It added that “terrorist gangs” were also attacking citizens and security forces in various districts of the city.

“The security forces are pursuing the terrorists and clashing with them,” it said.