Asylum for Assad in Russia not discussed: Putin

Russia has protected Assad from United Nations sanctions over his bloody crackdown on protests.

Updated: Mar 07, 2012, 22:19 PM IST

Moscow: Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that Russia
isn`t discussing granting political asylum to Syrian President
Bashar al-Assad, shooting down rumours that such an offer is
on the table.

Russia has protected Assad from United Nations sanctions
over his bloody crackdown on protests and accused the West of
fuelling the conflict by backing the Syrian opposition.

Putin, who regained the presidency in Sunday`s election,
said according to Russian newswires, that "we aren`t even
discussing the issue" of granting asylum to Assad, who has
continued to defy mounting international pressure to end the
year-old crackdown on an uprising against him.

Moscow has warned it will block any UN resolution that
could pave the way for a replay of what happened in Libya,
when NATO action helped oust dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Putin
himself last week chided the West for refusing to demand that
Assad`s opponents pull out from besieged cities along with
government troops.

The UN says more than 7,500 people have been killed since
Syria`s uprising began. Activists put the death toll at more
than 8,000.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul reiterated its harsh
criticism of Assad, warning that "those who are running Syria
must make a choice now. The road they have taken is absolutely
a dead end street, it is dark and full of disappointment."

"That`s why they have to give an ear to the efforts of
the international community. As you know there are some
formulas proposed. If they don`t say yes to those today, it
will be too late tomorrow," Gul said, without elaborating.

Meanwhile, Spain`s foreign ministry said it has closed
its embassy in Syria in protest of the crackdown. A foreign
ministry statement last evening said the decision followed
consultation with fellow European Union members.

The ministry said it will keep two diplomats in the
European Union delegation in Damascus to handle its interests.

Spain recalled its ambassador to Syria last month.

Britain, Canada, France and the United States have also
announced the closure of their embassies in Syria.