Help oust Assad, US tells Russia

Kremlin makes U-turn, says never said anything on regime fall

Syria’s rebel leadership and the United States seized on Russian pessimism over President Bashar al-Assad’s future to urge Moscow to help push its ally into ceding power and end the battles closing in around his capital .

Russia, however, issued a clumsy denial in Moscow on Friday of a statement from its point man on Syria, who said a day earlier that Syrian President Bashad Assad is losing control of the country. The Foreign Ministry insisted it is not changing its stance on the embattled Syrian regime.

The US State Department spokeswoman said after a senior Kremlin envoy conceded publicly on Thursday that Assad's opponents could win the 20-month-old civil war: “We want to commend the Russian government for finally waking up to the reality and acknowledging that the regime’s days are numbered.”

“The question now is, will the Russian government join those of us in the international community who are working with the opposition to try to have a smooth democratic transition?” US spokeswoman Victoria Nuland added in Washington.

In Marrakech, where his new coalition won recognition from other international powers as the legitimate leadership of Syria, rebel political leader Mouaz al-Khatib said he believed Russia, ally and arms supplier to the Assad dynasty since Soviet times, was looking for ways out of its support for a lost cause.

“I believe that the Russians have woken up and are sensing that they have implicated themselves with this regime, but they don't know how to get out,” al-Khatib said. He held them “particularly responsible” for helping Assad with arms but said Moscow need not
“lose everything” in Syria if it changed tack.

Under President Vladimir Putin, wary since last year’s Libyan war of what Russia sees as a Western drive to use the UN to overthrow national leaders it dislikes, Russia has blocked UN efforts to squeeze Assad, who has also had strong support from his long-time sponsor Iran.

Comments (+)