March 20, 2012 / 5:22 PM / 5 years ago

Russia says Syrian leadership has made many mistakes

MOSCOW, March 20 (Reuters) - Syria's leadership has made "very many mistakes" that have aggravated the crisis in the violence-torn Middle Eastern nation, Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in remarks broadcast on Tuesday.

Lavrov's comments were some of Russia's toughest criticism of the Syrian government in a year of bloodshed, but he reiterated that President Bashar al-Assad's exit should not be a precondition for a solution to the crisis.

"We believe the Syrian leadership reacted wrongly to the first appearance of peaceful protests and ... is making very many mistakes," Lavrov told Russian radio station Kommersant-FM, seeking to distance Moscow from the government.

Lavrov said that "the question of who will lead Syria in a transition period" can only be decided in a dialogue involving the government and its opponents and that demanding Assad resign as a condition for such a dialogue is "unrealistic".

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