The United States on Tuesday labeled as "ridiculous" a plan announced by Syria's embattled President Bashar al-Assad to hold parliamentary elections May 7 in the violence-wracked nation.
"Parliamentary elections for a rubber-stamp parliament in the middle of the kind of violence that we're seeing across the country -- it's ridiculous," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for four decades, set the date for legislative elections as part of a new constitution passed in February, according to state-run media.
Assad has pledged reforms -- widely criticized by the opposition as empty gestures -- as his regime puts down a year-long revolt that activists say has killed more than 8,500 people, mostly civilians.
Nuland said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke by telephone Tuesday with former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, who is serving as an international mediator and asked the Assad regime for an immediate halt to violence.
Nuland said that the United States supported Annan's initiative but rejected the views of Russia -- the main diplomatic supporter of Assad -- that she said equated actions by the regime and the opposition.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, a day after taking part in a heated UN Security Council debate, said Tuesday that Moscow would press Syria to accept international monitors but urged a "simultaneous" ceasefire between government troops and rebels.
"We would reject any equivalence -- in sequencing or morally -- between premeditated murders by a government's military machine and the actions of civilians who are under siege and defending themselves," Nuland said.
"If Kofi Annan can come forward with something that the Assad regime will accept and silence its guns, then our inclination will be to be supportive of that," Nuland said.
"But the expectation that the opposition would be expected to preemptively stop its self-defense while the regime keeps rolling through towns is unrealistic," she said.
Source: AFP American Edition