Syrian, Russian officials to hold talks

 Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa is in Moscow to talk about the violent protests in Syria.

Story highlights

  • 23 people have been killed in Syria on Friday, activists say
  • State-run SANA says no casualties occurred
  • The Syrian vice president goes to Moscow for talks
  • Russia has opposed sanctions on Syria, and has proposed a new U.N. resolution
The Syrian vice president arrived Friday in Moscow to talk with Russia's foreign minister about the unrest that has roiled Syria for months, a Russian state news agency reported.
Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa was to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov "to discuss ways for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in his country," the Itar-Tass news agency reported.
His visit came on the same day that at least 23 people, including four children, were killed across Syria, according to the Local Coordinating Committees, a network of opposition activists that organizes and documents demonstrations. The dead also included four women, the group said.
Ten died in Homs, four in Daraa, five in Hama, two in the Damascus suburbs and one each in Idleb and Deir Ezzour, it said.
But the official Syrian Arab News Agency said its correspondents had quoted official sources as saying that no casualties had occurred during the day, "although armed terrorist groups attacked law-enforcement members in some areas."
Russia has opposed sanctions on Syria on the grounds that such actions rarely yield results. Russia has also opposed calls for foreign intervention in Syria and has urged that country to accept international monitors.
The United Nations says 5,000 people have been killed in months of unrest in Syria, where pro-democracy activists are calling for an end to the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian government's repression of unrest has triggered criticism from Western nations as well as from the Arab League, which expelled Syria last month and has been pushing to send monitors into Syria.
At the United Nations, Russia introduced a draft resolution this week that, it says, "considerably strengthens" previous drafts "with regard to the interest in violence, with regard to the need to uphold human rights, with regard to expediting reforms."
The resolution "strongly condemns" violence "coming from all parties, including disproportionate use of force by Syrian authorities." It also would "give a strong message to the Arab League that we encourage them to continue their efforts, and working together with the government of Syria, and to carry out its plans to deploy the monitoring mission in Syria," Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Thursday at the United Nations.
The draft does not include sanctions or an arms embargo.
Germany's U.N. ambassador, Peter Wittig, described the Russian draft resolution as "insufficient" but said it could be improved.