* Medvedev to meet French president, prime minister
* Takes aim at France over recognition of Syrian coalition
* Says EU leaders lack energy and will in fighting crisis
By Gleb Bryanski
MOSCOW, Nov 26 Russian Prime Minister Dmitry
Medvedev, speaking before a visit to Paris on Monday, criticised
France's support for the Syrian opposition and accused European
Union leaders of indecisiveness in dealing with the region's
France became the first European power to recognise Syria's
new opposition coalition as the sole representative of its
people and said on Nov. 13 it would look into arming rebels
against President Bashar al-Assad once they formed a government.
Medvedev, who stepped down as president in May to make way
for Vladimir Putin, said such a decision was "unacceptable".
"The desire to change a political regime in another state
through recognition of some political force as the sole
sovereign representative seems to me not entirely civilised,"
Medvedev told French journalists in an interview cleared for
publication on Monday.
Medvedev echoed Putin's statements that Russia takes a
neutral stance and is not seeking to prop up Assad, saying that
"Russia supports neither Assad's regime nor the opposition."
"But ... the question is how right it is to ... decide to
support another political force if that political force is in
direct confrontation with the officially recognised government
of another country. And from the point of view of international
law, it seems to me that is absolutely unacceptable."
Russia and France have been sharply at odds over Syria
during a conflict activists say has killed more than 38,000
people since protests began in March 2011. France and other
Western states have criticised Russia for vetoing three U.N.
Security Council resolutions aimed to pressure Assad.
Medvedev is to meet French President Francois Hollande and
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault during his two-day visit,
the first meeting of an intergovernmental commission since Putin
and Hollande took office in May and Medvedev and Ayrault took up
their posts. Most meetings are expected to occur on Tuesday.
Medvedev said that Russia, which holds 41 percent of its
gold and forex reserves in euros, has been closely following the
crisis management of the EU, which accounts for half of Russia's
"We are following it with suspense because sometime it seems
to us that our European partners lack energy and will in their
decision-making," Medvedev said.
Medvedev also accused France of setting up administrative
barriers for Russian investors, often viewed in the West with
suspicion over the origin of their money made in controversial
privatisations of the 1990s.
"It is time to relax and understand that most Russian
businessmen are law-abiding people who made their money in an
honest way, and this money can be invested in any assets,
including French ones," Medvedev said.
He defended new laws Kremlin critics have described as a
crackdown on dissent since Putin's election to a six-year third
term, and contended Russia has advanced democracy since a wave
of opposition protests began last December by allowing more
parties to contest elections.
Some analysts believe Medvedev may not hold his job for much
longer. But Medvedev said he felt "comfortable" as prime
minister under Putin - a reversal of their roles from 2008-2012,
though Putin was always seen as calling the shots - and repeated
that he did not rule out seeking the presidency again.