Annan not seeking Assad`s ouster: Russia

Russia said Syrian peace envoy Kofi Annan was not seeking President al-Assad`s ouster but a solution to the year-long conflict.

Updated: Mar 17, 2012, 23:44 PM IST

Moscow: Russia on Saturday said Syrian peace envoy
Kofi Annan was not seeking President al-Assad`s ouster but a
solution to the year-long conflict that suited both the
opposition and the regime.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he spoke to Annan
shortly after his talks with Assad earlier this month and was
informed that the strongman president`s resignation was not
under discussion.

"I can assure you that there was no talk about Assad`s
departure," Lavrov said in comments posted on the foreign
ministry`s website from an interview with a state television
channel to be aired Saturday evening.

"I believe that the issue of Syria`s future should be
decided by the Syrians themselves," he said.

Lavrov`s comments came just days after British Prime
Minister David Cameron and US President Barack Obama vowed to
jointly press for a transition of power to end violence that
UN estimates say has claimed more than 8,000 lives.

Russia has been under mounting pressure to use its
Soviet-era links to the Syria government to put extra
diplomatic pressure on Assad and some Western diplomats have
recently said they detected a change in Moscow`s tone.

The United States said on Wednesday that it had narrowed
its differences with both Russia and China -- two UN Security
Council powers that blocked past efforts to condemn Assad --
amid recent criticism of the Syrian leader by Lavrov.

The Russian foreign minister this month expressed
disappointment with Assad`s "big delay" in implementing
reforms and admitted that his government was not always taking
Moscow`s advice.

Lavrov today said that Russia was willing to support any
solution to the crisis agreed by the Syrians themselves.

"Russia will back any agreement that emerges from a broad
political dialogue between the government and all opposition
groups," Lavrov said.

PTI