Moscow: Assad’s fate in hands of Syrians

‘Annan's plan has begun to seriously falter’

MOSCOW – Russia said Saturday it would be "only glad" to support the departure of President Bashar al-Assad if Syrians agreed on it, without wanting to impose the process from the outside.
"If the Syrians agree on this with each other, we will be only glad to support such an outcome," said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, adding that Moscow did not want to "impose the conditions of dialogue from outside."
The Russian Foreign Minister added that denying Tehran a role in the process would be "thoughtless".
"We want this event to be effective," said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
"To say that Iran doesn't have a place because it is already to blame for everything and it's part of the problem and not part of the solution, this is thoughtless, to say the least, from the point of view of serious diplomacy."
The Iranian government is one of the most important of a dwindling number of friends for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the United Nations, has called Iran a "spoiler" and said it is "part of the problem in Syria".
The United States has accused Iran of arming Assad's forces.
Russia has said its planned meeting on Syria would include all major international players and was needed to overcome differences on how to implement the tattered peace plan of UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan.
Moscow wants to hold the conference "as soon as possible", Lavrov said.
Lavrov said nations may have to overlook ideological divisions to settle the Syria crisis, and he suggested the United States should do so over Iran.
"Americans are pragmatists. When they want, they do not pay attention to ideological problems," Lavrov said. "This is pragmatism. It's simply necessary in foreign policy. We are talking about saving people's lives."
Lavrov acknowledged that Annan's peace plan "has begun to seriously falter," adding however that "we do not see an alternative to the implementation of this plan."
Diplomats said Friday that Britain, France and the United States would quickly draw up a UN Security Council resolution proposing sanctions against Syria over the worsening conflict that saw a fresh massacre this week.
At least 55 people were killed in Wednesday's assault on the village of Al-Kubeir, according to the Syrian Observatory.
UN officials believe that Syrian government forces and allies were behind the attack on the mainly Sunni Muslim village surrounded by an Alawite population loyal to Assad.
But Russia again reiterated its opposition to the use of force.
"We will not sanction the use of force at the United Nations Security Council," Lavrov said.