As the fighting grinds on, Syria reached out to its powerful ally Russia on Friday. Senior Syrian officials pleaded with Moscow for financial loans and supplies of oil products — an indication that international sanctions are squeezing Assad's regime.
Syria is thought to be burning quickly through the $17 billion in foreign reserves that the government was believed to have at the start of Assad's crackdown.
Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil, who has led a delegation of several Cabinet ministers to Moscow over the past few days, told reporters Friday that they requested a Russian loan to replenish Syria's hard currency reserves, which have been depleted by a U.S. and European Union embargo on Syrian exports.
Russia has protected Syria from U.N. sanctions and continued to supply it with weapons throughout the conflict. The Kremlin, backed by fellow veto-wielding U.N. Security Council member China, has blocked any plans that would call on Assad to step down.
On Saturday, China said the West that should be blamed for obstructing diplomatic and political efforts to restore order and peace in Syria.
Wang Kejian, a deputy director of north African and west Asian affairs at the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told a news conference that Western countries had hindered and sabotaged the political process by advocating regime change.
Wang reiterated China's stance that the solution to the Syria crisis should be a political one and that it is opposed to any military intervention.
Turkey also reported the defection of another Syrian general, along with five colonels, who came over the border with a group of refugees. The general would be the 29th to defect since the start of the uprising. Despite the defections, however, the Syrian army has largely remained intact since the uprising.
Associated Press writers Elizabeth Kennedy in Beirut and Ali Akbar Dareini in Tehran, Iran, Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this report.
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