‘West wants Russia to host Assad’

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iol pic wld assad syria REUTERS A handout photo distributed by Syrian News Agency shows Syria's President Bashar al-Assad during an interview with a Turkish newspaper in Damascus.

Moscow - Western nations led by the United States are seeking to persuade Russia to host President Bashar al-Assad in exile as a way out of the escalating Syria crisis, a Russian newspaper report said on Wednesday.

But Moscow so far has not been receptive to the idea, even though Kremlin sources put Assad's chances of political survival at “10 percent”, the Kommersant daily said.

Quoting a Russian diplomatic source, Kommersant said Western nations led by the United States were making “active attempts” to persuade Russia to offer a home to Assad, whose fate has become a major sticking point in the crisis.

But the source added: “We (Russia) have no and have had no plans to host Assad.”

Russia and other world powers at a meeting in Geneva on Saturday agreed a plan for a transition in Syria which did not make an explicit call for Assad to quit power.

However much to Russia's annoyance, several Western states have since said the accord clearly implies that there is no future for Assad. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday accused the West of seeking to “distort” the agreement.

But Kommersant said that Russia was not protecting Assad personally and the positions of Moscow and the West were not as distant as their public statements indicated.

“We are not defending Assad,” it quoted a source close to the Kremlin as saying.

“The Syrian president has lost time. The chances of him holding out are not great - 10 percent. And we are not against the Syrian opposition. But we are against outside armed intervention in Syria,” the source added.

Russia has been under sustained pressure from the West to publicly call for Assad to quit amid a spiralling conflict that has already claimed over 15 000 lives but Moscow has rejected imposing any outside solution. - Sapa-AFP

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